It was only a matter of time before Seth MacFarlane got into movies. The pop-culture obsessed vulgarian has become a full on comedy factory at Fox, where he cranks out no less than three raunchy comedies a week in Family Guy, American Dad,  and The Cleveland Show. It was never really a question of whether MacFarlane would eventually find his way into making movies, but rather a question of when. Well, it finally happened and now MacFarlane got a chance to splash his gently offensive ways over multiplexes worldwide. The final product serves as a summation all the comedy guru’s many strengths and weaknesses. As always with MacFarlane, there’s still more bad than good and this thing qualifies as one of the funniest films of the summer. However, there’s no denying that the guy’s brand of comedy might be best taken in 20 minute burts.

Courtesy Universal Pictures

Mark “don’t call me Marky” Walhberg stars as John, a 35-year-old stoner and underachiever with an impossibly attractive girlfriend named Lori (Mila Kunis). So far, sounds like a straightforward slacker comedy. I did forget to mention one thing though. When John was a little boy, he wished for his teddy bear to come to life. It happened, the bear became a living Disney character and an instant celebrity with appearances on Johnny Carson and every other major 80s TV institution. Then John n’ Ted grew up. The fame wore off and they just became stoner buddies watching Flash Gordon every day instead of, you know, living lives. Lori was charmed by Ted at first, but now that the trio live together she can’t take it anymore and wants the bear to move out so that John can grow up (following an event that involves hookers and poo on the floor). So Ted  gets a job in a supermarket and a slutty girlfriend while John struggles being separated from his best friend. Eventually serious friction is caused between John and Lori, a creepy Giovanni Ribisi makes plans to kidnap the bear, and Lori’s horny boss tries to make a move.

Courtesy Universal Pictures

To be honest, plot descriptions don’t mean much in a movie like Ted or anything that Seth MacFarlane makes for that matter. The story is deliberately simplistic and essentially just a place holder for jokes in an attempt to give audiences a reason to hang around for 90s minutes. The thing is that MacFarlane has never exactly been a master of plot. His talent lies in his unique voice and sense of humor, which Ted is filled with. The strength of the movie comes entirely in the relationship between Wahlberg’s manchild and his walking bear best buddy. The film taps into Wahlberg’s natural childish sweetness as a boy in a man’s body, with MacFarlane’s CGI plaything adopting a hefty Boston accent a la Peter Griffin and providing and endless stream of 80s trash culture references (there’s more love for Flash Gordon on display here than when the film was released), 9/11 comments, sex jokes, and filthy swears. Wahlberg does an incredibly job relating to an imaginary CGI creation while MacFarlane donned a motion capture suit to turn Ted into one of his cartoon creations come to life. As long as the focus is on the two characters, the movie works like a charm. That’s MacFarlane’s gift, I suppose. Their relationship is strong enough that it could carry yet another TV series through his bulging production company.

The mechanical plot is essentially meaningless and whenever the good times slow down to advance the story or provide emotional weight the movie starts to slump. Giovanni Ribisi’s villain seems to be there purely to provide a third act chase sequence while all of the emotional beats are in the movie are naked audience manipulation and nothing more. That’s always been true of MacFarlane projects though. Rarely do any of his TV shows offer a story with much or any weight. They are all just excuses for jokes, but MacFarlane is good enough at finding clever/offensive ways of making his rabid fanbase giggle that it’s rarely noticeable. By working in a feature length format, MacFarlane’s pedestrian grasp of storytelling is more obvious than ever. Thankfully, his skill with shock comedy and consistent ability to produce belly laughs is also in full effect and all the more impressive that he could pull it off for 106 minutes. In the end, the film is just an extended episode of Family Guy. You’ll get some memorable characters, a hell of a lot of laughs along with a forgettable story and a tossed off moral message. That should be more than enough to give MacFarlane one more gigantic hit to his name and will be all his fans w expect. It’s not a new comedy classic, but if MacFarlane can come up with a film concept in a future that would allow to let his subversive comedy mind run wild without being tied down to any sort of conventional narrative, he could easily make one.

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