There are 20 pretty funny minutes in the middle of Ted — when John (Mark Wahlberg) and Ted (voiced by Seth McFarlane) party with their boyhood (bearhood) idol Sam Jones (best known for his role as the titular character in the 1980 film Flash Gordon) — where I thought that the movie could redeem itself and become something pretty good. Unfortunately, I was wrong.
At the start of the film — Family Guy creator Seth McFarlane’s directorial debut — we come to know John, an 8-year-old boy whom even the bullied Jewish kid in the neighborhood won’t befriend. For Christmas, John receives a large teddy bear, which he so obviously names Teddy. Teddy quickly becomes John’s best friend.
One night, John wishes that Ted could be alive so they could really be best friends. His wish, as we already know, is granted. Teddy becomes an instant celebrity, but soon enough, he fades into obscurity.
Fast forward to present day: John has dated Lori (Mila Kunis) for 4 years, but still lives, gets high, and BS-es with Ted. The rest of the movie plays out as you’d expect, with Ted getting in the way of the relationship and John trying to adjust to life without his best friend, occasionally slipping up, getting into trouble with Ted, and jeopardizing his future with Lori.
Unfortunately, I just don’t think the movie works all that well. I wanted to like this movie, really I did. And it’s not that I don’t like McFarlane’s brand of humor — on the contrary, I very much enjoy Family Guy. Ted just suffers from too few laughs and a pretty unoriginal screenplay.
That isn’t to say that the movie is all bad. The pacing during the second half of the movie is relatively strong, and I actually liked the cliche-laden ending. And there are, of course, times that I found myself laughing pretty hard. The aforementioned 20 minutes with Sam Jones was quite hilarious, as are some moments with Ted in his job interview and review meetings, and Norah Jones’ cameo was great. And as always, Seth McFarlane takes umpteen jabs at celebrities, including Justin Bieber, which is always nice. Aside from those moments, however, most of the laughs and enjoyable moments in the film were provided to us a few months ago when the trailer came out.
Now, besides what I found to be a lack of good and hearty laughs, the screenplay also suffers from being stale and a bit dull. The setup, as I said, is pretty funny, but after that, the first 50-60 minutes of the movie are just slow. Nothing really happens. I know Ted is a crude R-rated comedy, but a little story never hurt anybody.
The first half of the movie is essentially all about John being conflicted with how to boost his relationship with Lori without letting his friendship with Ted fizzle. John forces Ted to move out and then begrudgingly gets pulled back in to Ted’s hijinks time and time again, while Lori continues to give John another chance.
Here’s where I think, however, the biggest issue with the movie lies: Seth McFarlane titled the film Ted, yet centered the movie on John and Lori’s relationship. That’s why the film is so stale. We’ve seen the “friend comes in the middle of a relationship” movie more than enough times. Ted is just a rehash of that same style of movie, but with a teddy bear as the lead. If McFarlane really wanted to succeed with Ted, he should have centered the movie on him — especially since some of the film’s funniest moments occur in Ted’s work life.
In the end, I just don’t count myself among those who loved and raved about Ted. It was disappointing. That someone like esteemed film critic Roger Ebert could claim it to contain the “best comedy screenplay so far [this year]” is a bit baffling. I’d give that crown to 21 Jump Street, hands down.
Seth McFarlane could have cut 60 minutes or so out of this film and he would have had himself two solid episodes of Family Guy, but as it stands, Ted feels like an overly long episode of the smash-hit animated series.