A buzz kill with a stuffed bear
By Ann Hornaday
Friday, June 29, 2012
If you’ve seen the trailers for “Ted,” you’re hip to its high-concept premise: A little boy named Johnny Bennett gets a cuddly teddy bear for Christmas and, after making a wish, the bear begins to talk; 20 years later Johnny (Mark Wahlberg) and Ted (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) live together as roomies, arrested adolescents getting high, watching “SpongeBob” and generally avoiding the bothersome business of growing up.
Making his live-action directorial debut, MacFarlane, the genial wisenheimer behind the animated television series “Family Guy,” has created a universe based largely on the same humor of that show, making “Ted” a probable hit with those viewers.
There’s no denying the subversive jolt of witnessing a sweet-looking stuffed animal sucking down bong hits, drinking, swearing a blue streak and making lascivious moves when he spots an attractive woman he wants to date.
But eventually MacFarlane’s formula -- consisting of filthy, ethnically offensive jokes, scatological humor, tacky pop culture references and random cameos -- begins to wear thin. (At last count there were two Sept. 11 one-liners in “Ted,” one zinger involving rape, and lazy gay jokes too numerous to track.) And, as Johnny’s relationship with his patient girlfriend, Lori (Mila Kunis), begins to strain, what began as a promising, if unhinged, experiment in suspending disbelief starts to feel like “You, Me and Dupree” for plushies.
It’s not that there aren’t laughs in “Ted,” because there are plenty, usually earned by way of throwaway lines having to do with has-been (or soon-to-be) celebrities or, in one of the film’s most memorable scenes, when the always-game Wahlberg delivers a motor-mouthed list of girls’ names on a pot-fueled dare. (“Flash Gordon” fans will also receive an Easter basket full of goodies.) Later, he participates in perhaps the most inspired hotel-room fistfight ever choreographed for stage or screen.
The problem is that MacFarlane’s sneering, jokey humor and wearyingly coarse toy character can’t sustain interest beyond that initial outrageous guffaw. And a third-act plot twist feels like padding rather than motivated by genuine narrative -- wait, I just remembered this is a review of a movie about a talking teddy bear. Come to think of it, “Ted” may be best enjoyed while enjoying the same mind-altering substances its protagonists ingest in such copious doses. Once the novelty wears off, though, so does the buzz.
Contains crude and sexual content, pervasive profanity and some drug use.