Upon hearing someone describe a sexual act involving a parsnip, your first instinct might be to say, “Ew!” However, given the fact that the person saying this ugly statement is three feet tall, has button eyes and is full of cotton, you can’t help but say, “Aw!” Yeah, the titular character of Ted tends to have that effect on people.

In 1985, eight-year-old John (Bretton Manley) can’t find a friend to save his life until Christmas morning, when he opens the best gift he’s ever gotten: a teddy bear that says “I love you!” when hugged. The young boy’s delight in his new companion leads him to wish his plush pal could really walk and talk and — thanks to a bit of holiday magic — that’s exactly what happens. Suddenly, everybody wants to be friends with the adorable teddy named Teddy and the child who brought him to life, but even with all the extra attention, the two of them make a vow to always remain best buddies.

Nearly 30 years later, John (Mark Wahlberg) may be an adult, but he’s by no means grown up, forsaking any kind of mature lifestyle in order to keep hanging out with Ted (voice of Seth MacFarlane), who may look as cute as ever, but his personality is much edgier. The pair’s antics have always been a point of contention for John’s live-in girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis), but when Ted goes too far, she issues an ultimatum that it’s time for the bear to move out. Still, the bond between a man and his favorite stuffed animal just doesn’t end that easily.

After giving us Family Guy, American Dad! and The Cleveland Show on the small screen, MacFarlane finally fully crosses over into live-action movie territory. All right, yeah, he appeared in Tooth Fairy, but nobody’s bragging about that misfire. Just as in his animated series, and his voice performance in Hellboy II, the Renaissance Man of comedy employs his best asset: that impeccable baritone that gives Ted his flawless Bostonian tone, the kind of sharp, direct intonation that isn’t at all fitting for someone whose only real function is to be sweet and cuddly. Instead, the little bugger spends his days watching Netflix with hookers, testing more and more potent strains of weed to test his tolerance — the current winner is a breed known as “Mind Rape” — and finding new ways of telling people he doesn’t like to fuck off. It’s astounding that Wahlberg’s John comes off as normal as he does with a bad influence like this, but Marky Mark is still funnier than he ever has been as the straight man to his fuzzy friend. Kunis also plays her part just right — not as a ball-buster who can’t stand to see her lover have friends she doesn’t like, but as a cool chick whose patience only goes so far when it comes to roommate boundaries. To be fair, does anybody want to share a bed with a 35-year-old man who needs to call an impromptu ménage à trois with his favorite toy every time there’s a thunderstorm?

Yet, there’s still hope for John to join the world of fully functional adults if he can just learn to let go of childish things; the “thing” in question being designed for elementary school kids and being pretty petulant himself. What’s more, this isn’t the wise-cracking, horny puppet like the Bobcat Goldthwait-voiced Mr. Floppy from the Married… with Children rip-off known as Unhappily Ever After, who only exists as a figment of the main character’s imagination, but a flesh and bone (fur and fluff?) creation accessible to everyone thanks to MacFarlane’s motion-capture performance.

What’s humorous is that this isn’t the story of Ted, who’s pretty much set in his ways and won’t grow beyond the homophobic, racist, drunken persona he’s had for years. And, no matter how hard he may wish, the toy company that made him isn’t going to give him an attachable penis. Of course, who can blame either of them for not wanting to give up a childhood full of ’80s culture? Like everything MacFarlane lends his name to, the movie is stuffed to the brim with references to the Reagan years, including a cameo that must be a wet dream for fans of the movie version of Flash Gordon. No matter how many japes and jabs he and the staff of Family Guy take at celebrities, it’s amazing how many of them still clamor to appear in his material, with a slew of high-profile folks turning out for the fun. Without the restrictions of prime-time TV, MacFarlane’s first film as a director, nevertheless, doesn’t skew as dark as some of the Griffin family’s adventures, although it’s certainly more profane. A few four-letter words aren’t nearly as edgy as a barbershop quartet singing about AIDS, which isn’t even the most shocking thing Family Guy has done in the past few seasons. Conversely, having virtually two hours to tell a story, rather than the usual 22 minutes, also lets the relationships on-screen develop much deeper than most films of the sort about the constant fuck-up who keeps butting into his friend’s otherwise perfect life.

Ted, both the movie and the bear, may be obnoxious, drug-laden and unsuitable for most audiences, but both of them also have that indefinable quality of charm despite all their faults. Makes me wish I had a thunder buddy for life.

Rating: 3 out of 4 stars

Cincopa WordPress plugin