Whether you like “Ted” hinges on one thing: How do you feel about Seth McFarlane?
If you’re a fan of Fox TV’s “Family Guy,” “American Dad” and “The Cleveland Show” (all of which McFarlane produces), you have an inkling of the salty, raunchy, politically incorrect and sometimes just plain offensive humor that McFarlane brings to his feature directing debut. Now take into account that he’s working with an R rating, and adjust your expectations accordingly.
I think “Ted” is freakin’ hilarious. Your mileage may vary.
“Ted” begins like a winsome Christmas fantasy, complete with avuncular narrator (Patrick Stewart) describing a Christmas miracle: A lonely little boy, John, makes a wish that his new teddy bear could talk for real. The wish comes true, and the bear, now named Ted, becomes John’s best friend forever. Ted also becomes a minor celebrity, first adored by the masses and later falling into a spiral of drug use, arrests and scandals. All this is just in the pre-credits prologue.
The main part of the movie revolves around John (Mark Wahlberg), now a 35-year-old slacker who spends most of his time avoiding work and getting stoned with Ted (a computer-generated character voiced by McFarlane). John lives with his longtime girlfriend, Lori (played by Mila Kunis, who voices the annoying Meg on “Family Guy”), who’s starting to worry that John’s life is stagnating because of Ted’s party-hearty attitude.
McFarlane — co-writing with “Family Guy” cohorts Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild — draws upon a deep knowledge of pop-culture references and gives the foul-mouthed Ted an offensiveness that leaves no group untouched. (For example: When Ted is forced to get a supermarket job, he laments about his former celebrity status, “This is how the cast of ‘Diff’rent Strokes’ feels every hour. The living ones, I mean.”)
Not every moment of “Ted” works. McFarlane is less than kind to female characters, depicting them as sluts or drips. (Kunis is pigeon-holed in the second category, as her Meg character on “Family Guy” has long been.) He also has a habit of recycling jokes, and his voicing of Ted recalls a bit too closely his “Family Guy” character Peter Griffin. There’s a disturbing subplot involving a creepy stalker (Giovanni Ribisi) who covets Ted.
But McFarlane throws a lot of jokes on the screen, and a fair percentage of them stick, and there’s a surprising sweetness to John and Ted’s friendship. “Ted” is likely to join the ranks of raunchy cult-classic comedies — alongside “Airplane!” and “Caddyshack” — that future Johns and Teds will sit at home and watch for years to come, possibly while getting high.
A teddy bear comes to life, and never leaves, in Seth McFarlane’s slashingly funny comedy.
Where • Theaters everywhere.
When • Opens today.
Rating • R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, and some drug use.
Running time • 106 minutes.