One of the highest-grossing R-rated comedies of all time, Seth MacFarlane’s directorial debut Ted not only scored with audiences (its worldwide box office haul was just north of $500 million) but was also reasonably well-received by critics. Ted is now on Blu-ray in its theatrical form as well as an unrated cut that runs seven minutes longer. For my money, the litmus test for any comedy is—did I laugh out loud? The answer here is yes, but not as often as I would’ve liked.
Ted’s title character is a stuffed teddy bear that miraculously came to life when young outcast John Bennett (Bretton Manley) wished for a friend. Ted is voiced by MacFarlane, who does little to distinguish that voice from his Family Guy character, Peter Griffin. There’s even a meta-joke thrown in for good measure, lest anyone think MacFarlane himself wasn’t aware. The adult John (Mark Wahlberg) has not only remained friends with the talking bear, his life is totally stunted because of it. The pair waste hours getting high and rewatching the 1980 Flash Gordon movie. Ted was a celebrity early on (appearing on The Tonight Show and such), but society ended up accepting him for what he is and stopped paying attention. John’s girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis) has grown very tired of the John and Ted’s lifestyle, longing for a marriage proposal from John.
Essentially Ted is another flick about a couple of adults who live their lives as overgrown teenagers, wallowing in the trappings of their youth. The exception, of course, is that one of the adults is a plush toy. But you could easily replace the digitally-animated bear with a normal actor without changing the substance of the film. The novelty of seeing a boozing, pot smoking, foul-mouthed teddy bear wears thin over the course of a feature-length film. The best gags have little to do with the bear, including several very funny cameos that I won’t spoil by identifying here. Joel McHale has a number of funny moments as Lori’s lecherous boss Rex. Giovanni Ribisi and Aedin Mincks are effective as a father and son obsessed with Ted, intent on gaining ownership of him.
The effectiveness of Ted depends on not knowing much more than the premise before seeing it. Perhaps more than the average comedy, anyone explaining the jokes and cameos beforehand will have a devastating effect on a new viewer’s experience. I can say that anyone who grew up in the ‘80s will have a strong advantage over younger folks. Unfortunately the film ramps up to an action-based climax that is basically devoid of humor, eventually devolving into easy sentiment. In a way, it feels like MacFarlane loses his nerve. But he obviously did things right from a commercial standpoint, considering the overwhelming popularity of the film. I suspect we’ll be seeing more of Ted in the near future.
On Blu-ray, Ted easily lives up to the expectations of a modern, A-list production in terms of audio and visual presentation. The 1080p, AVC-encoded transfer is unremarkable but still solid in every way. It was shot digitally and the resulting image is perfectly clean, finely detailed, and boasts deep black levels. The audio is also nothing to get excited about, but the 5.1 DTS-HD MA mix is entirely acceptable. The basics are met in terms of clarity, but surround activity is fairly limited and the LFE channel is restrained. That’s not a knock against it. There wasn’t any need for this mix to be showier than it is.
Besides the unrated cut, supplemental features are relatively limited but there is some good stuff here. The audio commentary finds writer-director MacFarlane joined by one of his co-writers, Alec Sulkin, as well as Mark Wahlberg. Wahlberg jets after about 20 minutes, making his contribution rather marginal. There are a few “making of” featurettes, a selection of deleted scenes and alternate takes, and an unusually funny gag reel. The package also includes a standard DVD, digital copy, and UltraViolet copy.
Ted is a moderately funny movie that’s unfortunately a little top heavy with forgettable, throwaway gags. Wahlberg delivers a nicely relaxed performance, but the premise isn’t inventive enough to really sustain the nearly two-hour running time of the unrated cut.