At first glance, Ted looks like one of those 1980s comedies about a guy with a talking penis or a guy stuck with an annoying ghost. But it’s actually the feature-film debut of Seth MacFarlane, creator of the animated TV series Family Guy and American Dad, and it has that same kind of humor: quick-witted, audacious, loaded with pop-culture references and flashbacks and offensive to everyone, equally.
But MacFarlane has also tapped into that thing that made There’s Something About Mary a phenomenon; in addition to stinging jokes, Ted has a genuine sweetness. Not a sarcastic sweetness, not a winking sweetness, but genuine—and earned.
In the simple premise, young John Bennett makes a Christmas wish for his new teddy bear to speak and be his friend forever. Twenty-seven years later, John (Mark Wahlberg) and Ted (voiced by MacFarlane) are still friends, smoking pot on the couch and watching Flash Gordon. Unfortunately, John’s pretty girlfriend (Mila Kunis) won’t put up with these antics much longer.
Ted’s pure, confident id is similar to Adam Sandler’s character in the recent That’s My Boy, but less ugly. Ted’s job in the movie isn’t to get John to “loosen up” and dump the wrong girl, but rather to allow him to grow up and deserve the woman he’s already with. Despite the fact that he’s a bear, Ted is one of the most human characters of the summer. And despite jokes about prostitutes and poop, Ted is surprisingly mature.