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By Nicholas Mutch
While watching Mark Wahlberg and a stuffed bear snort cocaine with Flash Gordon cannot fail to entertain, this is a film that has a few islands of brilliance floating in a sea of mediocrity and cliché. Ted is that most irritating of Hollywood films; the one that stakes itself on being daring and edgy premise, in this case putting a symbol of innocence (in this case a childhood teddy bear) into a variety of obscene situations but being unwilling to take the most minor of cinematic or narrative risks.
Granted, it’s an interesting premise; I’m sure even the most cold hearted among us have, stashed away from our childhoods, a stuffed bear, or doll (or in my case a dolphin) that at one point we secretly wished would come to life; its this wish that animates Toy Story, Winnie the Pooh and many other classic childhood tales. The film takes the question that, rather than remaining in the stasis of youthful innocence, the toy instead grew up with its owner, in this case becoming a foul mouthed, pot smoking washed up celebrity with a penchant for hookers. His owner, and “best friend forever” John is romantically involved with Lori (Mila Kunis) who wants him to leave behind his extended adolescence, get rid of his bear and marry her. The tension between his love for her and his friendship with Ted finally makes Lori give him an ultimatum; it’s either her or the bear.
From then on, the films plot becomes entirely predictable, and with the exception of a few terrific gags; after the midway point the film becomes a tiresome morality tale about learning to grow up and appreciate those who really care about you. The ending in particular is so hackneyed and saccharine as to induce nausea.
Mila Kunis’s job in this film is that of a sideshow; she exists to be pretty, to be sad and to be frustrated at Johns continued refusal to grow up, and there is a complete dearth of chemistry between her and John. For this reason, the romance of the story fails to generate a modicum of interest; considering that is at least half the film, this is quite a problem indeed.
Whenever Ted himself takes centre stage though, the film is usually quite entertaining; granted, most of the amusement comes from the fact that the gags are being executed by a teddy bear but this concept takes the film surprisingly far. The aforementioned scene with Flash Gordon, or Ted’s wild fling with his co-worker are funnier than they should be (although Norah Jones turns up for an inexplicably odd and dull cameo.) The film wants to be edgy and offensive, but scratch below the surface and its very mundane.
There are some terrific set pieces, but not more than you’d see in a decent episode of Family Guy, and the feature film is probably not something Seth Macfarlane should concentrate on; his medium is Television, and it shows. But I suppose Ted is as good a waste of an hour and a half as any. You’ll go, you’ll laugh, you’ll cringe, and you’ll leave the theatre never to think about it again.