Ted is the story of a John (Wahlberg), a 35-year-old slacker whose long-term girlfriend Lori (Kunis) is looking for more serious commitment in their relationship. There is just one snag – John’s childhood best friend, Ted. Ted is a committed party guy, stoner, potty-mouthed layabout and general all-round bad influence. He’s also a teddy bear. See, when John was a lonely kid in the mid eighties he got Ted for Christmas and made a wish that the toy would come to life and they could by BFFs. The wish came true, and the pair became overnight celebrities. Trouble is, the world moved on and lost interest, leaving Ted feeling (in his own words): “Like the cast of Different Strokes ... well, the living ones.”
So this is the story of John, a little boy who hasn’t grown up and now must learn to put childish things away. Except Ted isn’t all that childish. He has a thing for trashy women (despite not having a penis – “I’ve written a lot of complaints to Hasbro about that,” he remarks), and is becoming increasingly irritating to the quite patient Lori. The final straw comes on the couple’s fourth anniversary when they return to Lori’s flat to find Ted on the couch with four hookers, one of whom has taken a shit on the floor (this is actually a lot funnier than it sounds). Cue ultimatum.
Ted is a mixture of bromance and romcom, and in terms of plot, is disappointingly straightforward. There are a couple of additional complications thrown into the mix – Lori has a sleazy boss (Community's McHale) and Ribisi appears as a creepy guy who wants to acquire Ted for his equally creepy son. Both of these sub-plots are undernourished; Ribisi in particular only seems to be introduced so he can pop up again in the third act when the plot has run out of steam and provide a car chase and a bit of action. My biggest complaint is that Kunis shows again that she can be both sexy and funny, but is stuck in the sort of thankless role women always play in bromances. She gets a few funny lines then has to get all serious and buzz-killy. She deserves better.
All that being said, Ted scores big where it matters for a comedy: on the laugh front. I laughed hard, and I laughed consistently. Even the frankly poor Ribisi sub plot eventually produces a few really good jokes (and seems to have been influenced by the disturbing Tiffany stalker documentary I Think We’re Alone Now). The film’s humour is in line with MacFarlane’s TV series Family Guy and American Dad! – it’s rude, crude and politically incorrect. Thankfully, it doesn’t stray into mean or cruel (at least it didn’t for me; comedy is, of course, subjective). Wahlberg again shows the gift for comedy he showed in (mostly not very funny) The Departed and developed in (mostly very funny) The Other Guys. MacFarlane voices Ted, and along with very good CGI effects makes this a convincing and appealing character despite the swearing, bong hits and anti-social behaviour. There is also a nice line in eighties references that pays off in … actually no, it would be a shame to spoil that.
This is not a great film. Apart from the central conceit of a trash-talking plush toy, we are in territory very familiar from Kevin Smith and Judd Apatow comedies. The plot is familiar and there are really no surprises in the way it unfolds. Ted is best thought off as a really good stand-up routine that has been rather clumsily bolted onto a romcom plot pulled out off one of those ghastly scriptwriting guides that talk about story structure and forget about story telling. If you are a fan of crude humour, think Smith’s early films are funny, like Apatow but wish he would hire an editor, then I think you are on safe ground here. If, however, you aren’t, then unlike say Chasing Amy which had a strong plot, there isn’t a whole lot else to grab onto.