A young boy with no friends makes a wish that his teddy bear could become a real living breathing buddy. He gets his desire and they pledge to be “thunder buddies for life” to each other. The opening plays it fairly sweet and tame, as Ted becomes a genuine pal to little John Bennett. Everyone can see the little bear walking and talking as well, so the fantasy addresses Ted’s expected rise and inevitable fall from popularity within the public eye. Jump forward to the present day and Ted still remains John’s constant companion. But now the stuffed toy is a crude talking, pot smoking slacker with an oversexed disposition. Now that John has grown up, the tone switches to more mature (a.k.a. immature) humor. The main focus is on Ted and the bear’s relationship as adults and how it relates to his longtime girlfriend, Lori Collins.

Seth MacFarlane, creator of The Family Guy, makes his directorial debut with this high concept comedy about low brow people. You might think the jump from cartoon to live action would be a big leap, but Macfarlane stays true to the same irreverent sensibility. It’s got hip jokes galore that reference things from Flash Gordon and Cheers to Susan Boyle. There’s even a flashback that manages to re-create the Saturday Night Fever scene from Airplane!  Yes, it’s got those free association gags that lampoon everyday existence, but the comedy is more intelligent than a cursory run through pop culture. The script is thoughtful, mining humor out of the incongruities of life. For example when Ted purposefully sabotages his own interview for a job in a grocery store, the irrational manager regards Ted’s nonconformism as a sign of strong character and hires him on the spot. Furthermore, it’s the minor details that further push this fable into the realm of greatness. Patrick Stewart narrates the saga with a precious reverence reserved for fairy tales. It really sets the mood. The incidental music is also humorously quirky like the jazzy segue way you’d hear in an episode of a 70s sitcom like Mary Tyler Moore.

Right from the start, part of the humor is derived from the fact that Ted looks like Snuggle the Fabric Softener mascot but talks like a sailor. The dichotomy between his cute and cuddly exterior and vulgar interior is an incongruous mix and it works surprisingly well. The sight of a fluffy teddy bear kicking the stuffing out of Mark Wahlberg in one scene is hilarious. The action artfully juggles the atmosphere both ways. There is a serious attempt to mine poignancy at certain points and adult humor the next. One’s enjoyment of the movie completely rests on the viewer’s acceptance of this idea. For the most part it succeeds because the script is intelligently written and the feature follows the traditional movement of a narrative that has a point. In the end, this is about the classic man-child who must grow up and strike an acceptable balance between his best friend and his sweetheart. Mark Wahlberg is really enjoyable as the thirtysomething (he’s actually 41) with a tedious job at a car rental agency. As the perpetually adolescent minded John, I can’t think of a time where he’s been more blissfully agreeable in a film. What makes the story so affecting is that it doesn’t simply rely on a gimmick. You could replace Ted with Seth Rogan (but let’s not) and the story would still make perfect sense. It’s the chemistry amongst Ted and John and Lori that makes this so engaging.

26 Responses to “Ted”

  1. Great review, Mark! This looks like a funny film, and that’s clear from your high marks, but I, personally, am not interested. I’ve said my piece about hard-Rs, and on top of that, I’m not that much a fan of Seth MacFarlane’s humor. Family Guy annoys me.


  2. I was trying to find your email address here but couldn’t locate it. I literally browsed everywhere. Can you please contact me.
    It is regarding a writing opportunity!

    This is not a spam message by the way, although it might appear like it. Also if you could be kind, please remove this message once you have seen it so I don’t get emails by randomers.


  3. Markus Robinson Says:

    Well written review, as always. I still hold the theory that if you don’t like Family Guy, then Ted wont be as funny as it needs to be.


  4. Nice review Mark. This one made me laugh my ass off a lot, but other times whenever Ted wasn’t around, it just sort of dragged on. But at least Wahlberg and Kunis brought a lot of comedy as well and that’s all I needed.


    • I got laughs even when Ted was absent. Joel McHale, Giovanni Ribisi, Patrick Warburton, Ryan Reynolds, Sam J. Jones, Tom Skerritt, Ted Danson – I laughed at all of them.


  5. I really got a kick outta this movie. I laughed ,out loud, so much. It had some unanswered questions, like, how come he couldn’t fight a duck, but kicked Mark’s butt. Other than that, very very funny.


  6. martin250 Says:

    i still want to watch this. the idea of the plot is enough to win many viewers. am just somewhat bothered that it had to be made by Seth Macfarlane. am not too fond of vulgar humor when it’s used excessively as sometimes in his cartoons. But i feel there will be some good laughs here. am curious to see that Teddy Bear vs Mark Whalberg encounter. am already laughing a litte.


  7. No mention of Giovanni Ribisi and his son?!? When we see him dancing I literally (I saw this twice) both times audibly said “Yikes” to myself in the theater…sooo creepy…


  8. Very well-written review, as always, Mark 🙂 I’m really looking forward to this one. The trailer was hysterical and Wahlberg is a very underrated comedic actor. Like you said in your review, even without having seen the movie, the thing I love the most about it is Ted being very cute and cuddly but unbelievably foul-mouthed.


  9. sanclementejedi Says:

    Mark, one of the most amazing things about this film was that you don’t even notice that a talking teddy bear is one of the main characters. He just looks so real.
    This surpassed 21 jump street as the funniest film I saw at the theater this year.


  10. moviewriting Says:

    Great review Mark. I’m glad you enjoyed it, as it gives me hope I’ll like it too! When I saw some of the cruder bits of the trailer I was somewhat discouraged but if you favour it over 21 Jump St I have high hopes!


  11. Great recommendation. I was expecting a dumb movie with awful acting. The reason i put it off is because I can’t stand Family Guy. It was genuinely funny though.

    You saved my weekend, after being disappointment with “Spider-Man” I got to see a comedy that actually made me laugh. Of course, great review Mr. Ebert. I mean Mark.


  12. This finally opened here this week, and I wasn’t sure what to expect beforehand. The trailer looked brilliant, and while it did give away some of the gags, it did so without ruining what is without a doubt for me the best comedy of the year.

    I had heard the comparisons being made between this and 21 Jump Street, while i agree there are some, it’s a whole more mature and smoothly crafted movie than 21JS, with virtually all of the jokes in this getting a response, be it a shocked laugh or just straight out laughter, and walks that fine line between boringly unfunny and gross out tasteless.

    I loved this movie, a link to my review: http://wp.me/1LZxf


    • The only real similarity between Ted and 21JS is that they’re both R rated comedies. Both were pretty funny too. I liked Ted more though because it was smarter than the silly parody that 21JS became.


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