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The Independent Critic

Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane (Voice), Giovanni Ribisi, Joel McHale, Matt Walsh, Patrick Stewart (Narrator), Sam J. Jones
Seth MacFarlane
Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, Wellesley Wild
Rated R
106 Mins.
Universal Pictures
Feature Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Seth MacFarlane, Co-Writer Alec Sulkin and Star Mark Wahlberg;Gag Reel;Ted: The Making Of;Deleted Scenes;Alternate Takes;Teddy Bear Scuffle;My Scenes;D-BOX;BD-Live;Pocket BLU App

 "Ted" Review 
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I'm not sure what it says about Mark Wahlberg that he may have found his perfect screen partner in Ted.

Alas, it's true. While Wahlberg has certainly given critically acclaimed performances, such as in The Fighter and The Departed, seldom has it been true that Wahlberg has invested a character with such energy, zest, enthusiasm and outright hilarity. If you can stand your humor on the raunchier side of things, Ted will most likely tickle your funny bone. Or boner.

If you're afraid you might stumble into a certain Mel Gibson film, The Beaver, think again. Ted comes from the mind of Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, and that fact alone should be enough to convince you that you're not in for some overwrought drama here.

The film kicks off with a young John Bennett proving to be so socially hapless that even the Jewish kids pick on him at Christmas, a fact that leads him to make an accidental wish that magically turns his Christmas gift from his parents, an over-sized teddy bear not far removed from the Snuggles bear, into a breathing and fully functional best friend of a teddy bear named Ted (voiced by Seth MacFarlane). With Ted's magically manifested life comes fame, with appearances on a host of television shows including an appearance with Johnny Carson. As we all know, however, fame is fleeting and John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) grows up with his "best friend" in a perpetual state of stunted maturity despite managing to land a hottie of a girlfriend, Lori (Mila Kunis).

The brilliance of Ted is that while virtually all of this is funny, very little of it is actually played for laughs. The notion of this bizarre friendship is played completely believably thanks largely to the terrific special effects work of Tippett Studio in creating a teddy bear that exudes far more life than a good number of actors we see on the big screen these days. It also helps that Wahlberg not only affirms his gift for comedy, but he also amps it up several notches with a performance that is simultaneously sweet, sentimental, emotionally resonant and consistently funny.

While our two "thunder buddies" are content to float through life, John working for a rental car agency and Ted having turned into a drunken letch, life becomes complicated when Lori tires of John's immaturity and catches the flirtatious eye of her wealthy boss (Joel McHale).

In addition to being technically flawless, Ted is brought perfectly to life by Seth MacFarlane, whose performance is probably best described as a cross between your average Family Guy performance and the alien from last year's indie comedy Paul. The mastery lies in the way that Ted is woven seamlessly into the fabric of the film, a cuddly presence whose teddy bear status almost becomes irrelevant even when he begins to experience undesired attention from an obviously maladjusted single father (Giovanni Ribisi) determined to acquire Ted no matter the cost.

If all of this sounds completely and utterly ridiculous, well, it is. It's also frequently hilarious and, perhaps even more surprisingly, remarkably sentimental. There's a bromance quality in the relationship between John and Ted that is about as believable as a friendship between a man and his teddy bear can be.

In case you're wondering, that's pretty darn believable.

Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis are cast well together, with both performers having definite comedic talents yet limited emotional range. They complement each other quite nicely, and the relationship between Wahlberg and Kunis is played with a sense of normalcy against the backdrop of lunacy that otherwise surrounds the film. While it would seem that Lori's clearly out of John's league, MacFarlane's story is such that the affection between the two seems real and both Wahlberg and Kunis are clearly having fun here in the process. I've never quite fancied myself a fan of Kunis, but this character capitalizes on all her strengths as an actress.

In addition to our terrific trio of leading performances, Joel McHale is appropriately smarmy as Lori's boss while Giovanni Ribisi is awesomely over-the-top as the single father whose childhood disappointments lead to a darkly comical foray into teddy bear kidnapping. Sam J. Jones, whom you most likely only know from the 80's version of Flash Gordon, makes an extended appearance as himself and the bridge that helps to keep everyone that should be together actually together.

While Ted is nearly always funny, it does have definite dry spells and there's a strong argument that MacFarlane's obviously intentional attempts at being offensive grow a bit weary at times. There's everything from old school pop culture references to Jew jokes to racial stereotypes to a certain teddy bear complaining about his lack of a penis, and when it's funny it's incredibly funny and when it's not funny it's almost painfully unfunny.

However, for the most part, Ted is an unexpectedly enjoyable cinematic experience and easily one of 2012's raunchiest studio releases to date. While it's not without its flaws, MacFarlane has long proven his ability to pluck heartstrings while turning out gut-busting laughs.

Thunder Buddies for life, indeed. Ted is one stuffed animal you'll likely never find for $.25 at a garage sale.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic