'Ted': Filthy, Furry Fun
Glenn Kenny, Special to MSN Movies
I don't want to say that "Ted" is an entirely predictable movie. But then again, if I were to just lay it out for you, premise-wise, I trust that the movie you imagine it to be would sync up pretty nicely with the movie that's actually on-screen: It's the debut live-action feature directed and co-written by the creator of the outrageous, crude and raucous animated comedy series "Family Guy" and "American Dad," and that premise is a live, talking teddy bear who magically outlives the childhood of its young owner and becomes a bong-hitting, trash-talking, sexually perverse teddy bear who kind of messes with said owner's adult ambitions and responsibilities.
What's mainly different is that Seth MacFarlane, the aforementioned co-writer and director, can come up with better jokes than you or I are able to. And this is an important distinction. While "Ted" is not nearly as indiscriminately coruscating as MacFarlane's television creations are -- it does, by the end, go as sappy as pretty much every other wish-fulfillment studio rom-com, albeit in a goofier and perhaps more emotionally perfunctory way -- it does serve up a pretty jaw-dropping array of remarkably crude, nasty and, at times, pretty gut-busting jokes. My favorite occurs in the scene in which the living teddy bear, Ted (voiced by MacFarlane), forced to leave the rent-free Boston apartment he shared with his pal John (Mark Wahlberg) and John's largely tolerant but boundary-desiring girlfriend, Lori (Mila Kunis), goes for a job interview at a supermarket and tries to alienate the manager who questions him. Not the first part of the joke, in which Ted describes what he's been doing to/with the manager's wife, but the follow-up joke, after the manager says, "People don't usually talk to me that way." That joke made me laugh very hard, and for about 20 minutes I laughed at it, again, as it ran over and over in my mind.
For this critic, that spells comedy value. Your mileage, as ever, may vary, but if you like the non-sequitur type pop-culture references that are also part and parcel of the MacFarlane brand, there's much to enjoy here. John and Ted apparently grew up watching the inadvertently (or was it?) campy Dino de Laurentiis reboot of "Flash Gordon" (you know, the '80s one with the score by Queen) and now, as adults, they enjoy doing bong hits and watching it again and again. Suffice it to say, "Ted" works the "Flash Gordon" references pretty hard. No, Topol doesn't show up, nor does Max von Sydow; however ... well, I won't spoil it for you.
There are a few good-sport star cameos in this picture, and they have more edge than the customary such drop-ins, because that's how MacFarlane plays it. You've noticed that I haven't said much about the story line. While it does show admirable matter-of-factness in dispensing with its far-fetched conceit and its various implications right off the bat, it really is not quite so different than that of a standard romantic comedy in which a stand-up but somewhat immature guy has to fight off his lesser angels, largely embodied in a slackerish best-friend character, so as to become The Man (and husband) he was meant to be. The fact that in this case the best friend is a stuffed bear does provide a bit of a change-up, and enables a funny/creepy subplot in which a stalker of the onetime celebrity toy and his kid plot to kidnap the creature, but what agents and writers and execs like to call the "story beats" aren't too terribly changed by this factor. In the end, this is not really a problem while the jokes keep coming at a spanking pace.
And speaking of spanking ... well, never mind. Let's just say if the one thing that you've been waiting for in your personal cinematic experience is a knock-down, drag-out fight between a computer-animated stuffed bear and a real human being, which culminates in some bare-ass ass-whupping, well, this movie will satisfy that hunger and then some.
Glenn Kenny is chief film critic for MSN Movies. He was the chief film critic for Premiere magazine from 1998 to 2007. He contributes to various publications and websites, and blogs at http://somecamerunning.typepad.com. He lives in Brooklyn.