As far as marketing hooks go, “From the creator of ‘Family Guy’” is a pretty strong one, even if it’s going to divide audiences right down the middle. Over the last 15 years creator Seth MacFarlane has made a little comedy empire with a trio of animated shows all created from the same basic template (“The Simpsons”) and mutated a bit for each iteration (Republican “Family Guy,” Black “Family Guy”). So it’s no surprise that for his feature debut, the live action comedy “Ted,” he hasn’t strayed too far from the formula. The film features Mark Wahlberg as a grown-up version of John Bennett, a kid who once wished his teddy bear were real and got his wish. That teddy bear, Ted (motion captured by MacFarlane, basically doing his Peter Griffin voice), becomes famous for the novelty of being a talking stuffed animal and experiences the trappings of fame.
Cut to present day where Ted is a washed up former celeb and the roommate who’s unknowingly holding John back from doing more with his life by not allowing him to grow up and stop sitting around smoking pot and making irresponsible decisions. This becomes a problem for Lori (Mila Kunis), John’s girlfriend of several years who wants him to start being more responsible. And you can probably guess where it goes from here. In addition to this conflict the film unnecessarily introduces two other plots: one involving Lori’s smarmy boss Rex (Joel McHale) and the other featuring creepy dad Donny (Giovanni Ribisi) who wants to steal Ted for his son, which seems like it belongs in a different film. And despite some overtures made to not make Lori just a ‘wet blanket’ girlfriend character, she still ends up being basically that.
The scenes between John and Ted are the highlights of the film which features some laugh-out-loud moments. The screenplay by MacFarlane and “Family Guy” writers Alec Sulkin & Wellesley Wild isn’t likely to win over any new fans but I have to at least admire MacFarlane for staying true to his voice. For a studio comedy, “Ted” is for better and worse completely his voice. Sometimes that works (the scene of Wahlberg rattling off white-trash names is inspired) but sometimes its for the worse (whoever let him score the film with that 70s sitcom soundtrack should be sternly talked to). Like his television shows, the scattershot of jokes hits as often as it misses but the screenplay is sort of a mess, structurally, not that audiences seemed to mind. The movie opened huge last weekend, proving that “funny but not necessarily good” is sometimes “good enough.”