Family bear — Seth MacFarlane doesn't do cuddles

Jun 28, 2012 at 12:00 am



Ted is a heartwarming yarn about a 35-year-old chronic underachiever and his dope smoking, skirt chasing, potty mouthed, minor celebrity best friend, who also happens to be a magical living teddy bear. It's exactly the sort of fare you'd expect from raunch tycoon Seth MacFarlane, who stocks his animated TV empire with a menagerie of wise-talking, substance-abusing dogs, fish, aliens, etc., who colorfully delineate the space between ironically detached pop culture references. 

The prodigious MacFarlane has an autodidact's command of entertainment marginalia, and the ability to synthesize a half-century of film and television tropes at will, simultaneously spoofing and employing all the phony sentimentalism and hack storytelling tropes that, after decades of exposure, are now hardwired into our media-obsessed brains. Here he exploits the buddy-picture format, along with the curious trend of Reagan-era high-concept supernatural comedies, much as he uses the shopworn sitcom structure for his Fox network cartoons.

Mark Wahlberg stars as directionless nice guy John, who, as a lonely, geeky '80s child, wished that his beloved stuffed animal could come to life. One stormy night, the boy got his incredible wish, and now, decades later, the result of that miracle is a still sitting on his couch; toking bongloads and sexually harassing any gal that passes his fluffy face.  The little dude, who is brilliantly rendered in CGI, and sounds like Cliff Clavin with a sailor's vocab, is a blast to be around, but a drag on the budding relationship between John and his long-suffering girlfriend (Mila Kunis). Will John grow up and choose his gal over his cuddly pal? Will MacFarlane run out of offensive things for his cute character to say before the movie ends?

Though there are attempts to tug at the heartstrings, Ted is less about plot and more about lobbing gags and references at the screen, including an amusingly nasty shot at Superman Returns star Brandon Routh, and bizarre appearances by Tom Skerritt and Flash Gordon star Sam Jones.  MacFarlane has the cheek to slap around Adam Sandler's cross-dressing atrocity Jack and Jill, even though his own dirty teddy bear movie also relies on a dubious premise, casual filth and a string of nonsensical cameos for cheap laughs.

Fans of the MacFarlane oeuvre will be tickled; everyone else would be advised to sample Family Guy, among other shows, to see if they really, really need to see his sensibility — with curse words included.