In the play titled “Look Homeward, Angel,” based upon Thomas Wolfe’s masterful novel of the same name, old man Gant, one of main characters, utters the following lines: “Merciful God, what a travesty! That it should come to this.” And when I first read that Mark Wahlberg was the star of a new R-rated film about a 35-year-old man and his foul-mouthed, pot-smoking, oversexed, live teddy bear, those lines immediately popped into my head about the filmmaking business these days.
“Ted” is one of those films for which there is no middle ground. People either will find it very funny or be offended by it. The movie is rife with the dreaded “F Bomb” (more than 30 of them), and most of these come from Ted’s furry mouth. The humor also is quite crude in places, and, of course, because it is a modern comedy, it contains its share of what seems to have become obligatory scatological humor. Although I’m not offended by jokes and sight gags involving excrement and passing gas, I do find them extremely repugnant, but each to his own. Nevertheless, “Ted” does boast some very funny segments, and it’s very difficult not to be charmed by the bear.
The film begins in 1985, when 8-year-old John Bennett finds a giant teddy bear under his Christmas tree. That night he makes a wish for the bear to come to life. And when he awakens the next morning, he’s amazed to find that his wish has been granted. Now he has a new buddy for life, but as he grows older, his relationship with Ted becomes somewhat of a burden.
After the opening scenes, which include one very funny one with Ted as a guest on the Johnny Carson Show, we skip ahead 27 years to find the 35-year-old John (Wahlberg) facing a bit of a midlife crisis. He lives in an apartment with Ted, who spends most of his days smoking pot and watching TV. John is just about at a dead end in his career at a car-rental agency, but one thing he does have going for him is Lori Collins (Mila Kunis), his beautiful, intelligent, and successful girlfriend of four years.
Although Lori has accepted Ted as a part of her life, she is becoming increasingly annoyed because John refuses to part with the bear. Finally, she gives John the dreaded ultimatum of choosing between Ted and her. John fully realizes how good Lori is for him, and he finally tells Ted that it’s time for him to move out and begin life on his own.
Ted reluctantly lands a job (The interview is short but classic.) as a cashier in a grocery store and finds an apartment of his own. He even enters into a relationship with a sexy co-worker, but neither he nor John can seem to break the bond between the two of them. Even though they are living apart, they continue to spend a lot of time with each other. Finally one night John does something Ted that upsets Lori enough to make her call it quits with John. But then an event occurs that puts everything into perspective for all three of them.
Under the direction of Seth MacFarlane, the creator of the “Family Guy” TV series, “Ted” definitely will appeal to older teens and young adults. MacFarlane, who serves as Ted’s voice, has given the bear a deep New York accent that seems to fit him perfectly. Most of the humor in the film evolves from Ted’s actions or comments, and one the funniest segments occurs when Ted and John get into a fight over an insult John levels at Ted. The film is so cleverly done that you almost forget Ted isn’t a human being, and in the film’s production notes Wahlberg explained what drew him to the project and why he thinks the film will appeal to many.
“I went from doing ‘The Fighter’ press to shooting ‘Contraband’ in New Orleans during award season and going back and forth. Then I got a copy of the script, and when I read it, 30 minutes into it I completely forgot about the bear, and I thought, ‘Wow, what a great buddy movie with this dilemma in the middle of it with the girlfriend.’ Then I met Seth, and I was campaigning to get the part.
“People will not be disappointed. It’s Seth on steroids. When I first saw ‘Family Guy,’ I couldn’t believe that he was getting away with some of that stuff in a cartoon. But now with this rated-R feature film, he really pushes the envelope. There’s nobody that he doesn’t offend, either. Across the board, everybody’s fair game.”
Wahlberg also offered an interesting analysis of his character.
“John works at a rent-a-car place and has a beautiful girlfriend, Lori. He doesn’t want to let go of his adolescence, but his girlfriend wants him to step up and be a man. He’s enjoying life and couldn’t be happier with his girlfriend and his best friend; they make the most of every moment together. But that becomes a problem because Lori wants a bigger commitment.”
Considering that he’s playing opposite and animated character throughout much of the film, Wahlberg turns in a fine performance, and the same can be said for Kunis, who has a great chemistry with both the animated bear and Wahlberg. Her character is a vital part of the film, and in the production notes Kunis offered some insight into both Lori and John.
“Ted is a roommate who gets in the way a lot. Lori is a hard-working girl who loves John for being a child at heart, but she also wants to settle down and have a sense of security that he’s not capable of giving her. He is a sweet, beautiful soul, but he’s like a stunted 15-year-old boy who means well but doesn’t have the drive to go past a certain point. All he does all day long is smoke weed and get high with his teddy bear. Lori tries to get John to get Ted to move into his own place so that the two of them can start their life together.”
“Ted” is a unique raunchy comedy, but despite the cuteness of the bear, parents must be forewarned that this definitely is not a film for children. In spite of some of the needless tasteless humor, the movie has a certain charm about it, and it is quite funny in places. Therefore, “Ted” receives a surprising score of seven, and I do recommend it for those who think they can handle the constant use of profanity. For others, however, this movie just may be too much to bear.