TED is unapologetic, raunchiness to the extreme, and the best comedy of the year so far. And, it's got a teddy bear behaving badly.
In my youth, I enjoyed the company of my very own Winnie the Pooh bear. I can't remember if he ever had clothes, but he did have these sewed-on eyes that eventually fell off. I took that bear everywhere: it flew with me on vacations, helped to bag fruits at the grocery store, watched Star Trek: TOS, and basically kept me company through all those nights of being an only child. Pooh was always there for me, kinda like a brother I never had. But, what would happen if Pooh could have talked, becoming a live person with emotions and a personality to boot? What if your favorite toy could talk, but unlike the dolls in Toy Story, yours cussed or misbehaved while you looked on and laughed? That's the premise behind Ted, an absolute raunch-fest that's adorable, yet incredibly anti-PC at the same time, and the best comedy so far of the year.
As a result of his childhood wish, eight-year old Johnny Bennett gets the dream of a lifetime fulfilled: his teddy bear begins to talk and act with real human emotions. Ted becomes an overnight phenomenon, appearing on Johnny Carson and confusing Ed McMahon, who refers to him as the puppet alien Alf. Fast forward 27 years, and Ted (Seth MacFarlane, Family Guy) is a forgotten, jaded, foul-mouthed former 80's celebrity who's drinking (yes, drinking) and smoking bongs (yes, it's true) with the now older John (Mark Wahlberg, Boogie Nights). And just like his Thunder Buddy, John is a manchild loser, working the counter at a Boston rental car company with no interest in moving up. John and Ted are connected at the hip, and their antics (including a great sequence where John rattles off all the 'white trash' girl names he can think of), only makes John's girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis, Black Swan) hope that he will someday marry her and lose the bear. But the two are content to hang out, quoting lines from Flash Gordon, with Ted inviting strippers to the apartment while Lori and John celebrate their four-year anniversary. When the party goes awry (and I mean bad in a seriously stinky way), John kicks Ted out and makes him get a job. Viewed as a mere speed bump, Ted still drags John over to wild parties at his place, and encourages him to ditch work so they can watch the cast of Cheers on DVD talk crap about each other.
Lori wants that kind of camaraderie with John, but instead must have jokes explained to her and ultimately learns that John has made her ringtone 'The Dark Vader Theme' from The Empire Strikes Back. Eventually, the line is drawn: ditch the bear, or lose the girl.
MacFarlane's feature debut is filled with sharp and terrific one-liners, as well as a teddy bear-human fight that might go down as one of the best throwdowns ever. Wahlberg and Kunis have great chemistry and believably carry off the relationship part of Ted. While too sleazy to be called a classic romantic comedy, our human actors do an excellent job of pouring on the schmaltz in the serious scenes, leaving audiences to wonder whether they should be laughing or crying. This intentional effort comes from MacFarlane's command of the weekly juggernaut that is Family Guy: he knows how to make audiences laugh, even if one might consider him too crude for prime time. Regardless of this, his dialogue is so crisp and its execution so flawless that this 106-minute film could have succeeded whether Ted was a CGI bear or not. Ted is also filled with some terrific and well-placed cameos, including the appearance of Flash Gordon's Sam Jones (ask SandwichJohn about his FG carded figures sometime). There's a short but funny kidnapping subplot involving a psychotic dad (Giovanni Ribisi, Saving Private Ryan) and his overweight son (whom Ted refers to as Susan Boyle), as well as a house party gone seriously wrong, along with plenty of tips-of-the-hat to those of us raised in the 80's and remember TJ Hooker camping out on car hoods nearly every week. But don't think this is just a romp through 80's raunch: Ted also shines in its ability to lend human traits to fuzzy childhood pals in a way few films can. John's connection with his Thunder Buddy is real and flat out touching at times, especially near the film's end. And while that ending feels rushed, the overall effect is none the worst for wear.
Again, let's be clear: Ted is definitely not a heartwarming, feel-good film about children and their stuffed companions. It's way too perverse and definitely not for kids, and (without giving it away) the end will honestly be too traumatic for them. That shouldn't keep anyone of age from skipping the most hilarious film I've seen since The Hangover. Adam Sandler and Andy Samberg, take note: this is how raunch is done right. Ted reminds us of the strange habits of our youth and the unswerving connection we had to our childhood toys. But, it also takes us back to a time when we took everything for granted, when our bears and dolls protected us during thunderstorms and laughed with us on the swing set. And while my Pooh Bear is still in a plastic bag in the garage, it might be time to dust him off, although I doubt I'll catch him dry-humping a counter or doing cocaine in our bathroom. Ted is rated R for nudity, graphic language, drug use, and just about anything else you can think of.
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