Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane Joel McHale, Giovanni Ribisi
Anyone who’s familiar with the animated sit-coms, Family Guy and American Dad will be pretty well aware of creator and guiding creative light Seth MacFarlane’s weird, truly twisted sense of humor.
Deeply rooted in pop culture minutia, dirty jokes and outrageous and offensive behavior, a lot of which pushes the boundaries of network TV, MacFarlane’s sensibilities are those of a wise ass, smart mouth prankster who’s a lot sharper than most joke-sters.
When it was announced that MacFarlane would be venturing into making his first feature film, there was a lot of anticipation on what the result would turn out to be.
The end result is Ted, which not only proves that MacFarlane is one of the best and sharpest comic minds working today, but is the funniest film of this year and one of the best comedies of the past decade.
Of course, being a MacFarlane film, and free from the restraints of network TV, Ted is extremely vulgar, offensive, over the top and crude. But like Family Guy, it also brilliantly skewers and upends all the tired and played out conventions and clichés of romantic comedies and comedy films aimed for men, such as Judd Apatow’s movies like The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up, or Adam Sandler films.
Ted purposely indulges in those expected clichés, yet also cleverly goes off into weird, strange and unexpected directions with references to archaic pop culture (especially the 1980 camp classic Flash Gordon, which figures prominently and hilariously in the plot) and constantly reinvents itself in bizarre and twisted ways.
The film, aside from being screamingly and brilliantly funny, plays almost as a meditation on the nature of contemporary comedy and how far comedy has to go to push buttons to get people to laugh.
The film centers around John Bennett, a young kid back in the 1980s, who gets a teddy bear and wishes he was real. To his good or bad fortune, the wish comes true and Ted becomes his lifelong companion, for a while even becoming a media sensation as the subject of magazine cover stories and appearing on TV talk shows.
However, 25 years later, things haven’t gone as expected. Both John (played by a very funny and sympathetic Wahlberg) and Ted are forgotten losers, grown up adult children spending most of their time getting high and drunk, stuck in dead end jobs.
Even worse, John’s relationship with his remarkably patient girlfriend Lori (Kunis) is falling apart because John won’t become a grown up, responsible man, mainly due to his deep attachment to Ted.
Not surprisingly, things fall apart with Ted and John being forced to split. John and Lori’s relationship is falling apart, too, and meanwhile a creepy father (Ribisi) wants to kidnap Ted for his own even creepier son.
But aside from the jokes and raunchy nuttiness, the film also works brilliantly because MacFarlane gives his two central characters, John and Ted (a CGI creation voiced by MacFarlane), real depth and nuance apart from their wicked and reckless behavior. He creates two lost souls trying to find where they fit in the larger, complex world.
MacFarlane also shows a real sense of comic timing and pacing and the film has an ebb and flow that any great comedy should have, which climax in near classic comic set pieces that build to a frenzied climax.
Ted is a marvel, an extraordinary comedy of true and inspired invention with sidesplitting humor and a heart. Can’t wait to see what Macfarlane delivers next.