Stuffed with gags, Ted is a bear to love, but not to hug…
09:42 GMT, 27 July 2012
Verdict: Funnier than the average bear
Ted is a teddy bear, but he is emphatically not for children. He’s more boorish than bearish, and this film is a filthy-minded, foul-mouthed black comedy.
If you’re easily offended, then give it a miss. But you will be overlooking this summer’s biggest comedy hit, which has many hilarious moments.
It starts in Boston, 1985. John Bennett (Brett Manley), a loner Jewish eight-year-old, gets a teddy for Christmas. He kisses his only friend, names him Ted and promises to love him for ever. He also makes a wish that Ted could talk.
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Swear bear: Ted, pictured with Mark Wahlberg, is a pot-smoking layabout
Babe magnet: Ted with a bevy of beauties
The next morning, Ted has a surprisingly wide vocabulary, which scares the hell out of John’s parents and soon makes him a national celebrity. But the public tires of him, and he retires to hang out with John and be his best friend for ever.
We catch up with John as a 35-year-old slacker played by Mark Wahlberg, who wants to behave like a grown-up to please his alluring girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis). But Ted is too obnoxious and possessive for any prospective wife to tolerate. She makes John choose between her and his fluffy toy.
The central joke is that Ted may have started off cute, but grows into a disreputable, pot-smoking, lascivious layabout. Seth MacFarlane voices the bear like a Bostonian Danny DeVito, with a string of sexist, racially offensive, scatological gags.
Foul-mouthed but funny: This comedy about Ted, a teddy bear, is not one for children
For about half-an-hour, it’s a hoot to hear these things said by a teddy. It’s also fun to hear a plummy-voiced English narrator (Patrick Stewart) with an evident distaste for popular culture and Hollywood garbage like the stuff he’s having to narrate.
Wahlberg proved in The Other Guys he can do comedy, and — though he’s mostly the straight man here — he, too, has his comic moments, especially in a scene where he rattles off a list of white-trash girls’ names. The jolliest scenes are ones where Wahlberg and MacFarlane can forget about plot, and seemingly improvise riffs on their weird buddy-buddy friendship.
The relationship between Wahlberg and Kunis’s characters is far weaker. Kunis has to be a nag, which seems a waste of her natural naughtiness.
And the film is too close to the oeuvre of Judd Apatow in its fear and hatred of women. It turns into just another study of a middle-aged man trying to extend adolescence.
Writer-director MacFarlane made his name with animated TV shows (Family Guy and American Dad!). They favour gags over plot, and this lets him down in a feature-length film.
The plot starts moving in ever more conventional directions. The least gripping part is an attempt to kidnap Ted by a psychopath (Giovanni Ribisi) with a creepy, overweight teenage son (Aedin Mincks), whom Ted tastelessly addresses as Susan Boyle. This thriller sub-plot is charmless, ugly and unfunny.
Its only reason for existence is that it leads to a big chase that belongs in a different movie, and reinforces the suspicion that the screenplay has run out of ideas.
Yet underlying the poor plot and questionable humour is a Spielbergian wonder that stops things being unpleasantly offensive. The bond between man and bear is almost as touching as the one between E.T. and Elliot.
Ted may be a one-joke movie, but the joke is funny, and the special effects are so believable you forget there aren’t such things as garrulous, debauched teddy bears.
There’s nothing fluffy or adorable about Ted, but — at least for the first hour — he’s fun to be with.
Ted is out on Wednesday
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