Written and directed by Seth MacFarlane, 2012’s Ted is, essentially, a movie about two guys who, despite being in their 30s, have trouble turning into adults. Or, that’s what the movie would be if one of the guys wasn’t a living teddy bear. In fact, if Ted didn’t feature a living teddy bear, the movie would have very little going for it.
Starring MacFarlane as the voice of Ted; Mark Wahlberg as his friend, John; and Mila Kunis as John’s girlfriend, Lori, Ted trades heavily on this living teddy bear twist and the notion that it will be amusing to hear a teddy bear say four letter words, drink, and do drugs. Of course, MacFarlane isn’t wrong, it is fun to watch Ted get stoned, hire hookers, and deal with being a child. But it’s only fun in spurts, and with nothing else going for the movie, that really is barely enough to sustain the 106 minute runtime (slightly longer on the unrated version).
As for the character, Ted is, as such a character probably should be, not the lead. Wahlberg’s John is really the focus of the story. John, who wished for Ted to come alive one Christmas long ago, is now struggling with the fact that Ted is holding him back. Okay, wait, that’s not quite right – Lori is struggling with the fact that Ted is holding John back and gives him an ultimatum about kicking the bear out.
None of the plot points come as any sort of surprise. Lori even has a smarmy boss with lots of money who hits on her relentlessly. Then, when a (yet again) creepy Giovanni Ribisi shows up asking about buying the bear, just about everyone in the audience can see exactly where that’s headed, too. Not to beat a dead horse, but if there weren’t a foul-mouthed bear at its center, Ted would be completely been there-done that.
Fortunately, there is a dirty teddy bear spewing filth, and so the laughs continue. The film would still benefit by being about 10 minutes shorter, but it works as it is. And, in case it isn’t clear, Ted steals the show.
Ted, as a character, doesn’t just succeed because he’s funny, he also succeeds because the team working on the film have created an incredibly lifelike bear. With only a few minor exceptions, the CGI bear appears to truly there, interacting with John, Lori, and everyone else. No small part of this is due to the cast being successful at their parts, but watching the movie it is impossible to get past just how good Ted looks. Naturally, Blu-ray extras detail how Ted was brought to life, and those make for fascinating viewing.
Perhaps it comes from knowing MacFarlane is behind the film, but watching Ted it does feel impossible to escape the haunting feeling that you’re watching an extended sitcom. This isn’t helped by MacFarlane’s Ted voice being very similar to a myriad of other MacFarlane voices. No doubt, the fact that the plot is an amalgam of so many other movies and television shows aids that haunting sense as well.
It is this last fact that really stops me from loving Ted as much as I would like to. The movie is simply not funny enough to be able to get away with its worn plot. Children of the ’80s will certainly get a kick out of repeated references to ’80s toys and movies, but even an appearance by Sam “Flash Gordon” Jones feels like nothing you haven’t already seen a dozen times. It is simply unfortunate that the good hook has little behind it.
The spectacular look of Ted is only enhanced by the Blu-ray presentation. The level of detail present is exceptional, making every hair on Ted’s body stand out… and his bald patches, too. The few darks sequences in the film are not too dark to make out what is taking place, and a scene at Fenway Park looks particularly good, with the green field looking outstanding. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack isn’t the liveliest of listens, but it doesn’t disappoint either. Outside of one or two sequences there isn’t terribly much action to speak of, it’s a talky comedy and as such, much of the audio lies front and center.
Outside of digital copies (UltraViolet and iTunes) and a DVD copy, the Blu-ray also boasts both the unrated and theatrical versions, an audio commentary track, alternate takes, a gag reel, deleted scenes, and a couple of making-of pieces. These last items are divided into two groups, one piece focuses on just a battle between Ted and John, while the other is an overarching making-of featurette that is subdivided into several groups. This last one is not only fairly complete and gets into how Ted—the bear—is made. It is both interesting and informative.
In the final summation, Ted is a movie which is certainly funny, but just isn’t as funny as it could be. One gets the sense watching it that more time went into the creation of the concept than anything else, including coming up with new and different things for the characters to do. Even so, this is Seth MacFarlane’s first big screen adventure and I look forward to seeing what he does next.