After creating a string of popular and politically incorrect cartoon shows, Seth MacFarlane took his shtick to the big screen with Ted. Making the tricky leap from TV to film less daunting, MacFarlane surrounded himself with Family Guy regulars, relied on the wild and pop culture-referencing humor that's served him well in television, and repeated his tactic of pairing a manchild with an unconventional and troublemaking best friend, in this instance a talking teddy bear. By taking his manic storytelling style into the live-action realm, he gambled big, and in most respects, his risks pay off.
MacFarlane mixes plenty of heart in with his trademark brand of frequently offensive humor in Ted. The story of a lonely boy who wishes for his teddy bear to come to life grounds the narrative in an ardent sense of wonder. This later becomes a sharp counterpoint to its crass humor as both boy and bear grow into Boston meatheads whose mouths spew outrageous jokes--when they are not inhaling copious amounts of marijuana.
Mark Wahlberg is hilarious and delightfully dopey as John Bennett, the well-meaning manchild who just can't grow up, much to the dismay of his fiancé-to-be. Mila Kunis, as his loving but increasingly flustered girlfriend Lori, manages to score laughs as she deftly avoids the pitfalls that make many comedy girlfriend characters little more than nagging shrews for the male lead to bounce one-liners off of. Admirably, the script by MacFarlane, and fellow Family Guy writers Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild, makes Lori's beef with Jon's arrested development understandable, without disconnecting the audience from John or Ted. But for all the good character work put in by Wahlberg, Kunis and some standout supporting players—from Joel McHale as Lori's lecherous boss, to Giovanni Ribisi as a demented Ted fan, and Jessica Barth as the bear's skanky girlfriend—the CGI talking toy is undoubtedly the movie's showstopper.
The idea of our childhood toys growing into goofball buddies who karaoke like rock stars and drink like fish is wildly entertaining and strangely satisfying. And watching the film a second time (the first was in theaters last summer), I was able to appreciate the incredible feat of animation that Ted is. While the Blu-ray conversion hurts some of the lighting matches, making Ted seem slightly out of place, by and large MacFarlane's team did an astonishing job of incorporating the computer animated character into the physical world of modern-day Boston. Plus, since he's cute, Ted can get away with racy and shocking one-liners.
However, since much of the humor of the movie relies on shock value, it suffers on re-watching. Already some of the movie's pop culture references—like a throwaway joke about Taylor Lautner—feel a bit dated. And it's worth noting the Blu-ray/DVD combo pack offers both the theatrical release and an unrated version that has 40+ minutes of extra footage. Personally, I found the theatrical version felt a tad long as MacFarlane struggled with the feature-length storytelling format. The unrated edition exacerbates this issue, but if you can't get enough of Ted, this probably isn't a concern.
On top of the unrated version, the bonus features boast deleted scenes, which include more of McHale's chronically creepy character as well as a pretty funny arc for John's ambiguously foreign co-worker Alix (John Viener). The alternate takes option is basically the equivalent of the line-o-rama that's offered on Judd Apatow discs, where you can check out a string of alternative jokes the writers and performers toyed with on set. While you can typically see why they were cut, it does make for more laughs.
There's also plenty of behind-the-scenes bits, from the requisite gag reel to some truly interesting doc shorts about how the animation of Ted was developed. These featurettes show how MacFarlane performed the character of Ted live on the set, or more accurately just off to the side of the set. Rigged up with a motion-capture suit, he'd verbally interact with the on-set performers as cameras rolled on them, while the suit would capture his physicality for the animators' reference. For their part, the actors had to interact with a stuffed animal, a stand-in eyeline, or nothing at all. Seriously, you'll have a whole new appreciation for Wahlberg's work in this movie when you seen him expertly rattling off white trash names to a pair of eyes on a stick. That respect will get kicked up a notch when you see how John and Ted's fight scene was shot, complete with footage of Wahlberg chucking himself into walls with such abandon that he busted the set!
More fun facts are revealed in the disc's commentary track, which features MacFarlane, Sulkin and Wahlberg. Unfortunately, Kunis—they tell us—was on reshoots for Oz: The Great and Powerful, and couldn't make the record. Still, Wahlberg's a welcome presence…until he has to duck out before the first half hour mark. After that, Sulkin and MacFarlane struggle to fill the time, with MacFarlane marveling about how reshoots can seamlessly cut together with the originally shot scene, raging about the mistreatment of animals on movie sets, and then randomly calling out the producers of Luck for the horses that died on their shoots. Lesser moments include MacFarlane explaining what Indiana Jones, and iPhones are and wondering aloud if Facebook is still relevant. Basically, if you tapped out after Wahlberg does, you're not missing much.
There's also an Ultraviolet digital copy, but I side with Katey on the value of that.
Reviewed By: Kristy Puchko