“Ted” — A Toy Story for Adults Only

BY VINCENT ABBATECOLA

In Seth MacFarlane’s directorial film debut, “Ted,” the creator of the popular TV cartoon series “Family Guy” brings to the screen the childhood dream of having one’s favorite toy come to life, albeit in a considerably more mature light.

With a teddy bear that relishes in inappropriate behavior, the film is a perfect cinematic vehicle for MacFarlane. But, just like several few episodes of his hit television show, “Ted” has its bursts of brilliance, and its periods of unevenness.

John Bennett is a lonely boy in his suburb. He doesn’t have any siblings, and none of the neighborhood children want to be his friend.

One Christmas morning, he receives a teddy bear, and instantly becomes attached to him. Then one night, John wishes that his bear could talk, and the next morning, the bear does exactly that. Soon, Ted becomes a national phenomenon.

Years later, John (Mark Wahlberg) lives with Ted (voiced by Seth MacFarlane), works at a dead-end job and is trying to maintain his relationship with his successful girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis). She recommends to John that he ask Ted to move out, in order for her and John to move on with their lives. Because of Ted’s and John’s 27-year-long time together, separating might be harder than both of them think.

Mark Wahlberg’s performance shows that he is totally game for whatever comedy he is asked to do. He reminds of a grown-up version of Andy from “Toy Story,” if he realized his toys came alive and took to partying with them. The time the two share together calls to mind MacFarlane’s character of baby Stewie from “Family Guy” always talking to his own stuffed bear.

This relationship exposes John’s state of stunted growth, in the mental sense, and Wahlberg is able to bring out the sense of a boy trapped in a man’s body.

MacFarlane uses the same voice as he does for Peter Griffin, the lead character of “Family Guy,” but you’re willing to forgive it because the voice fits Ted’s character since, just like Peter, his lovable obnoxiousness doesn’t have any boundaries.

MacFarlane’s, Alec Sulkin’s and Wellesley Wild’s screenplay is divided into a fearlessly funny first half and an underwhelming second half. The first half contains many of the film’s standout moments, including Ted engaging in highly inappropriate behavior at his job, an out-of-control party in Ted’s new apartment, complete with Sam J. Jones of “Flash Gordon,” and a furniture-wrecking fight between Ted and John in a hotel room.

The second half falters because it focuses on an underdeveloped and rushed subplot of a creepy father (Giovanni Ribisi) trying to steal Ted for his son. The film could have done without it, and instead, make the whole story about John trying to come to terms with being an adult and balancing his relationships with Ted and Lori.

As a director, MacFarlane has his characters say hilariously unexpected things and brings in his signature love of the ’80s by using pop culture references, such as nods to “Top Gun,” “Airplane!” and “Flash Gordon.”

With this being his directorial debut for a feature film, it’s a solid effort within a new storytelling medium. He just has to work on some pacing issues that this film had, like introducing certain subplots, and then not revisiting them until much later.

Although “Ted” as a whole isn’t as hysterical as the premise justifies, seeing it just for the first half is entirely worth it. Watching a stuffed animal fall into R-rated shenanigans is a novelty in the comedy genre, and I wouldn’t mind having MacFarlane pull Ted out of the toy box again.

Final grade: B