Movie Review: Ted; When Stuffed Animals Attack

In movies, kids toys that come to life can go many ways. Cuddly (Labyrinth). Creepy (Chucky). Wise and creepy (AI).

Seth MacFarlane decided to combine all of them in the new movie Ted.

Marky Mark Wahlberg plays John Bennett, who wishes really hard on a star that his teddy bear will turn real and it does. Refreshingly, the jist of the story isn’t about little Marky having to keep the big secret while getting in trouble for Ted’s shenanigans. Everyone finds out about Ted and he’s an instant celebrity for a while, like a fluffier Gary Coleman.

But like Gary Coleman, Ted’s star fades and the buddies settle into a normalish bff routine. This is all narrated in a droll yet whimsical way by Patrick Stewart, reminiscent of Jim Dale’s wry voiceovers on Pushing Daisies.

The real story meat comes years later. Marky and Ted are feckless bachelor roomies, toking up, telling crude jokes–a modern bromance. Ted is like Marky’s id, encouraging him to hang around the pad and buy better weed and party with hookers. He might have been played by John Candy, in live action.

But in the tradition of gross-out buddy comedies everywhere, Marky attracts a girl that finds Ted cute at first, then sees him as thwarting her man’s growth. “It’s him or me,” more or less. Can Marky mature enough to satisfy her but not so much that Ted is out of the picture?

As with his Fox show Family Guy, the snarky MacFarlane tosses in numerous pop culture references with varying degrees of randomness. Unlike with that show, the jokes generally fly but the mood is uneven. The teddy bear CGI is flawless. Less successful is the final-act serial killer creepiness that feels like it doesn’t belong.

Still, the movie doesn’t lack heart. MacFarlane won’t be threatening the Judd Apatow gang at brilliantly combining penis jokes with warm relationship drama, but I actually found myself feeling the bromance and worrying what might happen to the furry frat boy.

3 out of 5 stars

Bonus: fun cameos by real actors (Giovanni Ribisi), real comic actors (Patrick Warburton) and real hotties (Ryan Reynolds.)

(Full disclosure: Reynolds doesn’t actually strip in the film. On the other hand, who cares?)

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