For better or for worse, “Ted” is a product of Seth MacFarlane through and through. In other words, the film plays out like one of those five-part “Family Guy” story arcs. It also doesn’t help that the comedic pairing of semi-serious Mark Wahlberg and a wildly inappropriate talking teddy bear, aptly named Ted, are essentially performing the same functions as straight-shooting dog Brian and the indecent infant Stevie.
And since “Ted” bears such an uncanny resemblance to the comedic stylings of “Family Guy,” the optimal way to consume it is the same: as a set of stand-alone YouTube clips that make you roar with laughter and cut out the story that connects the jokes. MacFarlane, absurd metaphor-spawner that he is, has never quite figured out how to tell a story that compels anywhere near as much as his cut-away humor does.
Granted, his borrowed, trite plot is merely there to string together the laughs. Yet it also winds up depreciating the value of the entire film because eventually you forget all the jokes. But the story is something that sticks in your head. For instance, I could recite one or two funny lines from “Ted” off the top of my head, but that creepy and unnecessary subplot involving Giovanni Ribisi as a sexually disturbed adult willing to kidnap a talking teddy bear will always haunt my memory.
The romance vs. bromance main story provided plenty of conflict without needing Ribisi dancing to Madonna music videos on VHS tapes. On the other hand, your childhood talking teddy bear or Mila Kunis? The fact that Mark Wahlberg’s John Bennett even has to question his choice makes him Wahlberg’s dumbest character since Dirk Diggler in “Boogie Nights.”
But because this is Seth MacFarlane we are talking about here, it’s not as easy a decision as it should be. John is revealed to be quite the MacFarlane surrogate, a man-child arrested in development at 19 and unwilling to part with his nostalgia and his bong. There’s some humor that comes as a result of the former since MacFarlane has quite the encyclopedic memory of pop culture, making for some killer references.
However, that killer knowledge is setting “Ted” up to get quite dated very quickly. So enjoy the jokes about Taylor Lautner, Hootie and the Blowfish, and Ryan Reynolds’ sexuality before the cultural landscape changes and the quips lose their punch. But that cutaway scene of which guy at the restaurant is going to smell John’s fart first – classic. Flatulence never gets old. B- /