For better or worse, Seth MacFarlane is our Academy Award host this year. It almost has to be better given Billy Crystal’s snooze-inducing Borscht Belt performance last year and the train wreck that was stoner James Franco and clueless ingenue Anne Hathaway the year before. MacFarlane is the force behind numerous animated television shows, the best of which is the occasionally funny but mainly awful Family Guy, an outlet for easy shots and pro forma crudity still outclassed by the tired old Simpsons and never, ever near the same class as the brilliant South Park. So, I’m no fan. But I am hopeful. MacFarlane is a gifted mimic and I watched him on a recent Saturday Night Live. He was surprisingly deft and his impression of swimmer Ryan Lochte was nothing short of brilliant.
Ted is MacFarlane’s creation, a live teddy bear wished for by a young Mark Wahlberg. Wahlberg is all grown up and he and Ted remain roomies, even as Wahlberg hits year four with his luminous girlfriend, Mila Kunis. Kunis wants commitment and maturity, Ted and Wahlberg smoke dope all day and watch TV, and things come to a head when, after an anniversary dinner, the live couple come home to find Ted with a passel of hookers.
There are a few clunker lines, but for the most part, this is a very funny, very crude (Ted’s come-on to a grocery store checker is waaaaay over the top) and surprisingly sweet story of a boy and his childhood pal. I say “surprisingly” because I would have expected MacFarlane to be a little more daring. He comes close, such as a scene in the end where, after Ted has gone through a harrowing ordeal and appears to have died, he wakes up but appears to be impaired. Is Ted going to come back as a mentally disabled stuffed bear?
That’s MacFarlane – and Ted – in a nutshell.