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Ted (Frank's take)

01/08/2012. Contributed by Frank Ochieng

Buy Ted in the USA - or Buy Ted in the UK

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It was a matter of time before subversive writer Seth MacFarlane took his brand of off-kilter, twisted imagination to the big screen after years of treating television audiences to his brash long-running prime time Family Guy cartoon. In Ted, MacFarlane’s (who incidentally provides the voice for the cuddly-looking, caustic titular toy) off-colour joke is clear: take a seemingly innocuous childhood icon—the teddy bear—and turn him into a flippant playboy at will.

Although a wicked and wacky concept typical of MacFarlane’s tawdry mind, Ted actually works as a satirical take on stunted adolescence in adult men that can never recovery from this mental blockage. Wildly offbeat, scathing, zany and acidic, the raunchy Ted works because we are in on the joke at hand about a man-child that refuses to let go of his safety blanket (his protective youthful existence) and distrusts his instincts to adjusting to the perplexities of adulthood.

Ted comes from an established lunacy of MacFarlane’s warped imagination that had been solidified in imbecilic manhood symbols such as the aforementioned Family Guy’s chief chump in Peter Griffin. Sure, the simplistic gimmick of an intrusive furry toy that overstays its welcome could easily be dismissed as woefully sophomoric. However, that is the genius behind MacFarlane’s craziness in unlikely agitators in that they push forbidden buttons in the name of unconventional insanity. The kookiness at times in Ted does run thin to the point of repetitive nonsense. Still, Ted is a charmingly smug “bad news bear” that delivers the ridiculing punch to effectiveness.

John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) is a regular Joe that one would not necessarily call a Renaissance man anytime soon. He is a good guy at heart but relentlessly clueless. As a child, little Johnny’s Christmas wish for his teddy bear to materialise into a permanent playmate turned from fantasy to eerie reality. Guess what…his wish was granted. Bennett’s flaw is his R-rated teddy bear named Ted, a potty-mouthed party-hearty pal that has never left Bennett’s side.

Ted enjoys the perks of being the ultimate studmuffin—he womanises and enjoys a drink or two along the way. This is not the Winnie the Pooh-type of character parents might want to expose their children to as Ted is indeed hardcore. He has a hankering for hookers and narcotics. And Ted’s favouring of perverse language is his calling card. Smokey the Bear he is not! Clearly, John Bennett and his beer-swilling buddy Ted is an odd couple of an agreeable kind.

Whether Bennett realises it or not, his companionship with the wayward Ted is causing a major riff between him and his hot-looking gal Lori Collins (Mila Kunis, “Black Swan”, “Friends with Benefits”). Lori wants John to grow up and act more serious and responsible. As long as Ted is in the picture he presents a detriment to her romantic connection with the babyish Bennett. Nevertheless, Ted is joined at the hip with Bennett as he shares an apartment with his human best pal and his fed up honey-bunny Lori.

Ted is notoriously crass in surrealism yet it does try to instil some awkward sense of sentimentality and loyalty. Writer-director MacFarlane (along with his Family Guy co-writing cohorts Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild) serves the movie’s outlandishness with the combination of Ted’s obnoxiousness and Bennett’s plastered arrested development. This is both a case of kudos and a curse. When Bennett and the brash bear get into salty predicaments the results are inspired and riotous. Unfortunately, the sledgehammer effect of the outrageousness sometimes overstays its blunt welcome.

Apparently Wahlberg’s John Bennett is not the only cartoonish alpha male that needs lessons in the credibility of acting proper. Joel McHale (from TV’s “Community” and “The Soup”) pops up as a hormonal nuisance of a boss trying his best to cuddle up to his curvaceous subordinate Lori whose disillusionment with live-in boyfriend John and his brutish bear-mate Ted still grates on her nerves. Patrick Warburton (from TV’s “Rules of Engagement”) portrays Bennett’s car rental co-worker who shows up disheveled without any particular rhyme or reason (after all…it’s “a guy thing”). A creepy admirer of Ted’s named Donny (Giovanni Ribisi) impulsively vies for Ted’s attention (we are informed of Ted’s one-time celebrity status) and wants the berated bear to reside with him and his insolent hefty son.

Composed of live-action flourishes with the CGI flexibility and convincing livelihood of Ted’s movements and mannerisms, MacFarlane and his handlers turn this foul-mouth farce into a serviceable romp that hits comically more than it misses. The naughty nuances of Ted is a mixed bag for the most part (the climactic scene involving Ted’s periled presence at Boston’s Fenway Park—
star Wahlberg’s real-life stomping grounds as a native Bostonian—feels a bit concocted and pseudo-sympathetic).

For the most part, Ted is a titillating hoot that gleefully wallows in its scaly skin. Geez…talking about having the devilish “bear” necessities.

1 hr. 55 mins.
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Seth MacFarlane, Mila Kunis, Joel McHale, Giovanni Ribisi, Patrick Warburton
Directed by: Seth MacFarlane
MPAA Rating: R
Genre: Comedy/Fantasy

Critic’s Rating: ** 1/2 stars (out of 4 stars)

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