Mila Kunis

A kind of adorable Ted

Seth MacFarlane makes his live-action director's debut
Seth MacFarlane, Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis
Directed by Seth MacFarlane

You’ll never look at your child’s teddy bear the same way again. From the mind of “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane comes his debut film (Universal Pictures) about a stuffed teddy come-to-life who enjoys the finer pleasures like strippers, smoking weed, cursing, and dirty sexual innuendi.

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This miraculous event happened years ago when a young boy named John made a wish, transforming Ted into a flash-in-the-pan celebrity and turning them into inseparable friends. As adults, the fame has dried up, but both are still together, spending their time getting high and watching “Flash Gordon.” John (Mark Wahlberg) works a dead-end job at a car rental company and has a beautiful girlfriend named Lori (Mila Kunis, providing the film’s sappy romance) that he would do anything for. She loves him back but needs to see him mature, so John decides that Ted must move out. But try as they might, staying away becomes harder than both might think.

MacFarlane, he of the cut-away gag and audaciously-funny laugh, is nothing if not a keen observer. He’ll go crude, offensive (there isn’t a race, religion, traumatic event or sexual orientation he hasn’t hit), and isn’t afraid to go darker, either, but what I like most about him is, like the best comedians, he can create a shocking belly-laugh from a witty place of social and pop cultural commentary. So I guess the surprise would be that the bro-mance, man-stuffed animance, whatever you want to call it, is not only funny but sweet. Whether they’re riffing on “Boston girls,” hanging with the real Flash Gordon, going mano a mano in a great Man vs. Teddy Bear fist fight or singing the thunder song to ward away their fear of the boom, it’s effective and even kind of adorable.

Wahlberg is perfectly cast, his boyish innocence a good counterpoint to his bulky physique, although he never lets himself slip into cartoonishness. MacFarlane (doing the Peter Griffin voice, but still) giving voice to this seamless, excellent motion-capture special effect (various teddy bears were used as stand-ins for post-production editing), gives Ted both his comic timing and affability. Another great surprise is Giovanni Ribisi, notable for his flamboyantly creepy turn as a Ted-stalker. But it’s MacFarlane, taking his shtick outside the realm of cartoons (well, partially), who may well prove to be one of the most exciting comedy filmmakers around. With this consistently, outrageously funny movie, he’s off to a good start.

Did you also read Craig Younkin’s review of “Magic Mike”?

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