So what constitutes a guilty pleasure? It’s a film that I like for personal reasons, and thus, probably have watched more than I should have.
Stuffed animals are designed to be cute, and come in a large variety these days. But nothing beats the classic teddy bear, in my opinion, in terms of cuteness.
Not only are teddy bears extremely cute, cuddly, and huggable, but they represent our childhood. Seth MacFarlane, creator of Family Guy, uses the symbol of the teddy bear to its fullest advantage for comedy in his first feature-length film, bringing a teddy bear named Ted to life only for him to engage in profanity, drugs, and sex, possibly the three most non-child-like things to do.
Despite Ted’s inappropriate behavior, which includes the occasional middle finger and invitations to strippers, I love how Ted remains a likeable character, maintaining a certain personality trait I think everyone associates with a teddy bear: loyalty. The film makes a great decision to start off by delivering Ted’s origin story. He is John’s Christmas gift, and in true Disney fashion, John wishes upon a shooting star for his bear to come alive, and hilariously, he does! Characters respond to Ted the way I imagine they would in the real world. John’s parents freak out at the sight of a walking and talking teddy bear, as his mom grabs an unplugged whisker machine to her defense. He headlines newspapers and makes appearances on TV shows, becoming a celebrity of sorts, only to be completely forgotten since novelty always wears off. Yep. Sounds like reality to me.
Then the film develops their friendship through the title sequence, presenting a timeline made up of pictures and short clips accounting their growth over the years. By the time this was all done, I cared about Ted’s relationship with John. I was invested in it. The problem is, the film doesn’t think to develop John’s relationship with Lori before she demands for John to move on from Ted, his childhood, and become a man who’s responsible, grown-up, and serious about his career. I think the film tried to use the rationality of Lori’s requests to win the audience over to her side, but personally, I thought Lori was being immature herself, whining without offering any compromises. The film treats her like some prize to be won, since she is also being pursued by her douchebag boss, devoiding her of personality and coming off as pretty generic and undesirable.
This also applies to John, but that’s to be expected since I don’t think Mark Wahlberg is a very good actor (or producer, for that matter). And while I will continue to assert Ted is a well-written character and is the star of the show (voiced by Seth MacFarlane himself), my gut feeling tells me that the fact he’s a teddy bear makes me connect with him more than other people will, which is why I cannot recommend this movie to everyone.
Plus, the humor is a bit raunchy, but it’s nothing unexpected if you’re familiar with Family Guy or R-rated comedies. As someone who never really thought Family Guy was particularly funny, although I do think its commentary on society is quite pointed, I still think you will likely find Ted worth the watch if you like Family Guy. There were some jokes that didn’t work for me, like there’s a whole big deal with Flash Gordan I just didn’t understand, and the movie takes a weird turn once some creepy dude tries to steal Ted for his son, providing a means for a car chase which felt random and unnecessary.
With all that said, Ted himself is a great character, embodying the essence of being a teddy bear while supplying the film with some great visual humor, constantly fighting off our expectations for the way a teddy bear should act. The introduction is also great, forging the bond between Ted and John with ease and expertise. As a big fan of animation, I found Ted’s completely CGI integration into the film to be very well-executed and seamless, as exemplified by a fight scene between John and Ted, which is hilarious to watch knowing that Ted was actually never there to throw punches and beer cans at Mark Wahlberg. And lastly, the ending, although cliched, is surprisingly emotional. I won’t give it away, but I love when comedies can not only make me laugh, but also make me feel something. I wish the human characters were as charismatic as Ted, but the story does allow Lori to redeem herself at the end. In many comedies, it is usually the laughs that redeem weak characters, but in Ted, it is fittingly a teddy bear that redeems MacFarlane’s on-and-off humor for me.