It seems like there may be a new trend brewing in Hollywood these days. Some of animation’s most prominent creative figures are stepping out of the land of hand-drawn and into live-action. First Brad Bird proved the impossible possible making the fourth Mission: Impossible the best one yet. Then another Pixar extraordinaire stepped behind the cameras to finally bring Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter to Mars. Now, Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy, American Dad, The Cleveland Show) not only steps into the world of live-action, but also away from his parent studio (20th Century Fox) to Universal Pictures to bring us what is bound to go down as the year’s flat out funniest film, Ted.
Beginning in 1985, we are introduced to the friendless 8-year-old John Bennett (Bretton Manley), the loneliest kid in Boston. The Narrator (Patrick Stewart) informs us that even the “ginger Jewish kid” getting beat up on Christmas Eve wants John to get lost.
All John wants is a friend, so when he receives a giant teddy bear for Christmas, he makes a wish for “Ted” to come to life. His wish comes true and his parents (Ralph Garman and Alex Borstein) proclaim it a Christmas miracle. Through the ever-useful montage technique we watch John and Ted stay “Thunder Buddies” for life and learn that Ted (now voiced by MacFarlane) has grown up into a certain kind of celebrity, even appearing on Johnny Carson.
By now John is 35 years old (played in grown up form by Mark Wahlberg) and is about to celebrate his four-year anniversary with girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis). Problem is, that John spends all his time with Ted getting high, watching Flash Gordon, and working at a car rental dealership.
He has an understanding boss in Thomas (Matt Walsh), but he doesn’t want John to miss out on the opportunity of taking over his cushy job as branch manager. John starts thinking that Lori wants more from him but is afraid he can’t provide seeing how Lori works at a PR firm under the ruling misogyny of her boss Rex (Joel McHale). Soon enough, Lori does start to get tired of John and Ted’s antics and the ultimatums start to pile up while a subplot involving Donny (Giovanni Ribisi) and his son Robert (Aedin Mincks). These two have begun stalking Ted and are more than creepily willing to take Ted off John’s hands.
At first I was a little worried that maybe an R-rated Seth MacFarlane movie would be too much to take. He three Fox shows already pushe the boundaries of good taste as far as network television will allow. But with the pop-culture-savvy and hilariously-brilliant MacFarlane, the film never runs out of steam. I have not laughed this hard since Universal’s Bridesmaids.
As with that movie, you find yourself laughing nonstop. There’s barely room for a breather as the jokes fly fast and furious and hardly even one doesn’t stick. Ultimately it comes down to MacFarlane knowing that you have to step up and be an equal opportunity offender for his brand of hilarity to work.
The film also feels like my own childhood brought to life, with nods to Airplane and Octopussy, to the funniest Indiana Jones reference in years. It says a lot when three people (myself included) all walk out remarking that they could watch this movie literally ever day. MacFarlane (along with his co-writers Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild) has more than delivered one of the funniest. movies. ever. period.
Photos courtesy Universal Pictures