By Jessica Delfanti | June 28, 2012
Director: Seth MacFarlane
Writers: Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, Wellesley Wild
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Seth MacFarlane, Mila Kunis, Giovanni Ribisi, Joel McHale
Viewers familiar with Seth MacFarlane’s Family Guy may not be shocked to see what unfolds in the writer/director/voice actor’s new film, TED. With irreverent humor, lots of swearing and references to boobs, and a decidedly pessimistic view of the intelligence of the human race, TED has all the same components of MacFarlane’s other work, but manages to accomplish none of the same feats.From its very beginning, TED is a mess. After a whimsical and forced intro that chronicles the proof of “magic” in the form of a stuffed bear wished into animation by a lonely young boy, the film fast forwards to the two in adult life. The bear, Ted (voiced by MacFarlane), is now a womanizing pothead with no ambition. The boy, John (Mark Wahlberg) is struggling to choose between loyalty to the problematic Ted and his longterm girlfriend, Lori (Mila Kunis). Thus the plot begins and ends.
As comedies go, plot is not always important or even required if the humor is substantial enough to keep us laughing. TED, however, does not make up for its failing in narrative with punchlines. MacFarlane’s jokes stumble across dozens of sensitive topics. He handles each not with delicate, soft-stuffed paws, but rather the clumsy touch of one that has lost perspective on what he can get away with, and the value of some respect even within the world of raunchy and racist humor.
Beyond the extremely offensive but expected jokes about women that punctuate every one of Ted and John’s sentences, the film offers far more discomforting observations about the female sex. Kunis appears to be the only actress in the film; most of the other women, including her sexy-secretary archetype coworkers, look like they were cast out of a Vegas strip club. As Ted manipulates women into various marginal activities, the message is clear: the women in the world are not only trashy but stupid enough to fall for an animated Teddy Bear’s manipulation. As the single character in the film that actually seems like a human, Kunis is reduced to a clinging, shrill, and controlling negative force.
Many will say that these simple and offensive touches are little more than the handiest trick that MacFarlane has up his sleeve, but after years of producing comedy, one would hope for some maturity, some wink of irony or respect to acknowledge the audience members that aren’t twelve year olds smoking pot. With a plot like TED’s, we expect a required suspension of disbelief. Future viewers should also go prepared to suspend their self-respect, good taste, and desire for entertainment.