(NEW YORK) — I’m a year older than Seth MacFarlane. I think his show The Family Guy is one of the funniest ever created, but for an outlandish reason: Sometimes, it feels like McFarlane and his like-minded writers have been occupying my brain.
In a bizarre though frequent occurrence when it comes to MacFarlane creations, the day I saw his first live-action film, Ted, I was having a conversation with my editor in which I said of a certain movie that came out earlier this year, “It’s like 2012’s Flash Gordon, just not nearly as cheesy and not a fraction as entertaining.”
Why is this relevant? There’s a scene in Ted in which Mark Wahlberg’s John and his talking teddy bear, Ted, are watching Flash Gordon. I laughed, smacked my forehead and silently screamed, “Get out of my head, MacFarlane!”
Many of my friends around the same age also feel this way. Even when he’s not lampooning our familiar, early 1980s pop culture, MacFarlane’s team is pitch-perfect when crafting jokes that go well beyond good taste into the patently offensive, but are genius nonetheless. We get all of that and then some in Ted.
I don’t believe Ted needs in-depth analysis. It’s a raunchy, violently funny (you might hurt yourself from laughing) film with a ridiculous concept that works because Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis and Giovanni Ribisi are so utterly convincing when talking to the CGI talking teddy bear. Who of course, talks back.
Ted (voiced by MacFarlane) is the product of a magical wish placed by 8-year-old John, who had no friends and was hated by the Irish kids in his Boston neighborhood. Even the Jewish kid whom the Irish kids beat up every day wants nothing to do with John. The morning after his wish, John wakes up to a living, breathing Ted.
Ted becomes famous but what’s most important to him is being John’s loyal friend for life. Thunder buddies, for anybody who has seen the trailer — a scene that’s significantly funnier in the red band trailer and even funnier in the movie.
I’m not going to tell you anything you probably don’t already know or can guess. John grows up and ultimately has to choose between his girlfriend, played perfectly by Mila Kunis (who’s also the voice of Meg on MacFarlane’s Family Guy) and Ted, who’s also grown up into a pot-smoking, beer-drinking, prostitute-hiring pal who is clearly holding John back.
I’m not the biggest fan of Wahlberg’s over-earnest style of acting. It was great in Boogie Nights but he’s been the same character in pretty much every movie he’s done since — just look at Andy Samberg’s genius impersonation on Saturday Night Live. In Ted, however, Wahlberg has finally taken his acting to another level. Being forced to commit to an inanimate object in the silliest possible way can do that for an actor. Impressive.
Speaking of Ted, even though MacFarlane’s characterization does sound a lot like Family Guy‘s Peter Griffin, it’s never a distraction and serves as a punch line for one of the movie’s hundreds of effective jokes.
Not only will MacFarlane and non-MacFarlane fans alike love Ted, they’ll bring it home, put it in their beds and snuggle with it as they laugh themselves to sleep.
Four-and-a-half out of five stars.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Sandra Gonzalez, CNN
Jackie Wattles, CNN
Lisa Respers France and Brian Stelter, CNN