On the surface, a movie about a talking teddy bear sounds a little out of Seth MacFarlane’s wheelhouse. But, like every other topic, the man is capable of making it his own. As the first feature MacFarlane has both written and directed, Ted packs a massive punch to the gut…as a result of excessive amounts of laughter and possibly from the realization that you’ve fallen in love (probably for the second time in your life) with a stuffed animal. With his usual arsenal of non-stop pop culture references, particularly with regard to Flash Gordon a.k.a. Sam Jones (who appears in the film as a willing caricature of himself), Ted is not a movie for the casual film or TV watcher. The only exception to this rule is unless, of course, you’re a stoner.
How Ted (voiced, naturally, by MacFarlane) comes to exist as a living, talking being (and later a drinking, pot-smoking being) is quite simple, really: Magic. The desire of a child named John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) to be best friends with his teddy bear being so intense that his wish for the bear to come alive actually works. Instead of the standard plot that would ordinarily occur wherein everyone assumes John is crazy because Ted won’t talk in front of anybody else, Ted ends up getting wildly famous and even goes on The Johnny Carson Show (just one in a slew of amazing 80s throwbacks). But as our tongue-in-cheek narrator (that’s right, Patrick Stewart) validly points out, no matter how famous you are, “eventually nobody gives a shit.” Ted’s spiral into the world of ordinary–or at least no longer novel–doesn’t affect his ironclad friendship with John, forever his “thunder buddy” (and, although that may sound sexual, it’s actual just the term they use to describe the night they bonded over being afraid of thunder).
As we flash forward to John at 28 years old, very little has changed, apart from the fact that he’s been dating the same girl, Lori Collins (Mila Kunis), for four years. Lori bears (pun definitely intended) the distinction of being the only girlfriend John has ever had who has been able to put up with the hijinks and shenanigans of a boyfriend whose best friend is a talking bear with a stronger libido than most 16-year-olds. Lori’s threshold for Ted reaches its plateau the night of her anniversary dinner with John after they get back to their apartment to find Ted hanging out with four prostitutes, one of which took a shit on the floor. Unable to tolerate anymore adolescent behavior, Lori gives John the ultimatum to either kick Ted out or stop pretending that their relationship can ever advance with Ted in the picture. Like most men would, John makes the choice that allows him to have sex on a regular basis.
With Ted being put in the unfortunate position of actually having to look for a job to pay rent, he sits in the park with John contemplating what to do via a good old-fashioned pot-smoking session–promptly interrupted by a creepy father named Donny (Giovanni Ribisi) and his son (later compared by Ted to sharing a strong resemblance to Susan Boyle), Robert (Aedin Mincks), who offer to pay a good price if John will sell Ted to them. It is the most off-putting situation Ted will have until getting hired at a grocery store as a cashier, his only consolation being the presence of Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth), a decidedly white trash girl (if you couldn’t gather from the name, which sparks one of the best moments of dialogue in the movie), but that’s how Ted prefers his women anyway.
As Ted and John attempt to live separate lives, it becomes obvious that neither of them can break their habits, falling into the familiar pattern of smoking weed and watching DVD commentary (Cheers, specifically)–the only difference being that now it’s at Ted’s apartment. Lori quickly sees this is the case and yet again threatens John that he’s running out of chances. John agrees that Lori is right and promises to be on his best behavior the night of a party her boss, Rex (the delightfully sleazy Joel McHale), is throwing, in spite of knowing that Rex constantly hits on Lori with no shame or regard for the fact that John is her boyfriend. Unfortunately, what John could not have predicted is that this would be the same night Ted would have a party at which Sam Jones, the Flash Gordon himself, would show up at. Too tempted by the prospect once Ted calls him up to tell him this, John rushes over to the other party.
Inevitably, Lori discovers John’s absence and immediately tells him to move out, which, in turn, unleashes John’s fury toward Ted for luring him to the party in the first place. With his two most critical personal relationships in turmoil, John can barely function, ultimately getting into a brawl with Ted in his hotel room initiated by a Teddy Ruxpin related insult. Finally, John cedes to let Ted help him get Lori back–a failed attempt involving, of all things, a Norah Jones concert. As I’m sure you know though, things turn out okay, and yeah, the message is about lasting friendship, what have you. But Ted is, more than anything, Seth MacFarlane giving fellow pop culture enthusiasts a lengthy, much needed blow job.