Part of the charm of “Family Guy” and Seth MacFarlane's other animated shows is the glee with which he flings gags. MacFarlane is a volume dealer, and so it is no surprise that his first feature film, “Ted,” lands some fantastic jokes but is strewed with nonstarters — it's a laugh-to-bomb ratio that would not work in lesser hands. “Ted” succeeds because MacFarlane and his stars, Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis, create empathy for both a foul-mouthed teddy bear and his man-child owner. That, in itself, is a kind of magic.
When John Bennett (played as a child by Bretton Manley) was a socially awkward little boy in suburban Boston, his parents gave him a teddy bear for Christmas, and little John gave his fluff-stuffed friend the literal-minded name “Teddy.” One night, John made a wish: that Teddy could really talk instead of just emitting a prerecorded “I love you.” Suddenly, John's best friend became sentient and conversational, and following a brief period of freaking people out and eventual talk-show stardom, Teddy and John just settle into a life together as best friends.
But by the time he is 35, John (Wahlberg) is not really going anywhere — the best thing happening in his life is his girlfriend Lori (Kunis), who accepts that John hangs out, drinks beer and smokes pot with a smack-talking teddy bear, voiced by MacFarlane in an unmistakable Peter Griffin-style Boston bray, but is growing fatigued with the routine. She eventually convinces John to create some distance with the bear, but then “Ted” pivots on two major emotional points: whether John can actually separate himself from his childhood friend, and whether it is really that important to send Ted packing in the first place.
The general tone of “Ted” should be familiar to “Family Guy” fans: MacFarlane is merciless with the sex jokes and pungent blasts of gastrointestinal humor, and when he wants to hit a celebrity, he makes certain to take deadly aim. The cast of “Ted” is all on board with this, especially Wahlberg, who gives his best comic performance since “I (Heart) Huckabees.” Also, MacFarlane makes sure that Lori is not just the “bad guy” in this scenario, and Kunis (who voices Meg on “Family Guy”) plays her as being genuinely worth the prospect of John giving up Ted, but also sensitive enough to eventually make the right decision for everyone. There is also a great supporting cast on hand, including Giovanni Ribisi and Joel McHale, and some hilariously random cameos.
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Starring: Mila Kunis, Mark Wahlberg, Seth MacFarlane, Giovanni Ribisi, Joel McHale. (Crude and sexual content, pervasive language, and some drug use)