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“Ted” Delivers Big Laughs and a Lot of Heart

July 2, 2012

By John C.

If I told you that a raunchy adult comedy about a talking teddy bear directed by Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane was one of the best movies of the year, you would probably think I was crazy.  But Ted is a film so consistently hilarious and filled with genuine heart that I found it impossible not to love the film and its plushy foul mouthed star.

The film opens on Christmas in 1985, which we are told in voice over narration is the day when all the children of Boston beat up the one Jewish kid.  But even the kid being bullied doesn’t want poor little John Bennet (newcomer Bretton Manley) joining in on the fight.  John is a boy without friends, until he unwraps an overstuffed teddy bear on Christmas morning and wishes that he “could really talk.”  The wish comes true and the talking bear named Ted (voice of Seth MacFarlane) becomes a media sensation.

Cut to present day and John and Ted are still “thunder buddies for life,” continuing their habits of swearing and getting stoned together, especially when watching Flash Gordon.  But John’s girlfriend, Lori (Mila Kunis) gives him an ultimatum – the bear has to get a job and move out, or their relationship is called off.  John feels forced to decide between his best friend and his girlfriend, and there is a psychotic weirdo (Giovanni Ribisi) in town with a severe Ted obsession who is looking for more than just a hug.

By all means, Ted is a film that shouldn’t work.  But it consistently does, time and time again.  A big part of this is because Ted is treated as a character and many of the jokes don’t come from the fact that he is a talking teddy bear, rather that nobody seems to notice him walking down the street.  This is a classic “romance versus bromance” story where the best friend just happens to be a stuffed animal come to life, which provides a physical representation of arrested development and packs a surprising emotional punch over the last few scenes.  John and Ted are best friends, and we always want them to be together, especially during a thunderstorm.

Just like the equally excellent 21 Jump Street a few months back, which was also filled with pop culture references, Ted is a comedy that goes beyond its ability to make us laugh.  The CGI animation of the title character also deserves recognition.  Ted’s fur is a bit matted and he is ever so slightly threadbare around his middle, which all adds to the believability and photo realism of him being a beloved teddy bear.  The way that the human cast interacts with him is completely seamless, adding to the feeling that he is just another character in this world.  The visual effects team deserves serious Oscar consideration.

You don’t have to be a fan of Family Guy to enjoy Ted, but if you are offended by the style of humour on that animated TV show, then you will likely find much of this film to be in equally poor taste.  No race, religion, sexuality or day in September is off limits in terms of humour, no matter how offensive or sometimes twisted the jokes may be.  It’s crude and certainly not for kids, but Seth MacFarlane is an equal opportunity offender and the jokes come at such a fast pace, that I found it impossible not to laugh long and hard.

Judging by the $54.1 million that the film pulled in over the weekend, it’s clear that the humour has struck a chord with audiences, but I personally think that the genuine heart of the film is another big reason for the success.  With several fun celebrity cameos, including a hilarious appearance from Norah Jones who sings the film’s wonderful theme song “Everybody Needs a Best Friend,” Ted delivers big laughs and a lot of heart.

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