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"Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane brings his signature off-color humor to his directorial debut, Ted, which may be more heartfelt than the funnyman's fans expected. Mark Wahlberg acts alongside Ted, an impressively realized, foul-mouthed CGI teddy bear voiced by MacFarlane that came to life when Wahlberg's John Bennett was a little boy. Twenty-seven years later, John and Ted cling to their youth and live together in a bachelor pad, wasting their days away smoking pot and watching Flash Gordon. John's longtime girlfriend Lori, played by "Family Guy" regular Mila Kunis, is sick of the pair's childish behavior, and pushes John to grow up. Ted is not quite as funny as it might have been thanks to some lengthy diversions into sappy waters, but Wahlberg and MacFarlane create a believe friendship between man and teddy bear.
Young John wishes upon a star that his Christmas present, a Teddy Ruxpin-esque stuffed bear, could be his friend forever. The next morning, Teddy - Ted for short - has magically come to life, and becomes an overnight, walking-and-talking sensation. But, the narrator explains, after awhile, America loses interest in Ted. Cut to present day, when Ted and John live as lazy teenagers. Ted is unemployed; John works at a rental car company. On her fourth anniversary with John, Lori asks him to persuade Ted to move out so they can move forward with their relationship.
Fans of "Family Guy" and MacFarlane's other animated works like "American Dad" will find Ted's sarcastic humor familiar. The two-foot-tall bear curses with the voice of Peter Griffin, makes sexual gestures, is practiced with a bong and drives recklessly. The filmmakers used a stuffed replica and various other objects on set, and Tippett Studio created Ted in postproduction. Their work is some of the best animation/live-action blending to date, and Ted feels like a living, breathing character. MacFarlane said he wanted Ted to be cute enough to offset his foul behavior, and the animators created an expressive, huggable teddy to interact with Wahlberg, Kunis and other cast members.
Ted's out-there humor and nonstop movie and pop culture references are blended with a surprising amount of human drama. John and Ted kick and scream toward adulthood, and viewers may wonder how John managed to lock down Lori for four years. For every hilarious scene like the one where Wahlberg rattles off dozens of "white trash" names while trying to guess whom Ted is dating, there is a more serious John/Lori/Ted soul-searching scene. This structure mostly works, but the film's pacing suffers a bit from its stop-start narrative. One of the film's recurring plot points involves Lori's boss Rex (Joel McHale), who sexually harasses Lori at work. McHale is a funny guy but his character grows tiresome, and I never believed Lori would even consider choosing him over John.
Giovanni Ribisi shows up as a creepy kidnaper who is obsessed with Ted. Ribisi emulates Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs by gyrating to a bad '80s music video, but this conflict is little more than a means to an end for the film. John learns to appreciate Ted and Lori, but the film's drama too often overwhelms the comedy. Fortunately, even these serious bits are littered with laughs, so Ted is able to pull through the excess storytelling.
Despite a few narrative hiccups, most of Ted is quite funny. Not all the jokes land successfully, but MacFarlane throws enough at the screen that many stick. Wahlberg and Kunis really sell the action, and I never once felt like the human leads weren't interacting with Ted. The film made a bundle at the box office this summer, and MacFarlane has a promising feature-film career ahead. Ted is an enjoyable mix of raunch and friendship, and its all-CGI lead is particularly compelling.
Ted arrives on Blu-ray with a sparkling 1.85:1/1080p/AVC-encoded transfer. Shot digitally with the Panavision Genesis HD camera system, Ted looks every bit as good as a recent release should. Detail is excellent, and the image sports razor-sharp close-ups and deep-background wide shots. Facial details and texture are excellent, and colors are perfectly saturated. Black levels are very strong, and skin tones are accurate. MacFarlane exhibits a strong visual eye on his first directorial outing, and Ted is nicely staged and shot. I noticed no compression hiccups or digital tinkering.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is perfectly suited for this comedy material. Dialogue is crisp and nicely layered, and the track features plenty of directional dialogue and dialogue panning. Light ambient and action effects pan the soundscape, and the film's musical score is deep and appropriately layered. An English 2.0 DVS track is also available, as are 2.0 DTS Spanish and French mixes. Subtitle options include English SDH, Spanish and French.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
Universal releases Ted on Blu-ray in its typical "combo pack" format. The set includes the Blu-ray, a DVD copy of the film and codes to redeem iTunes and UltraViolet digital copies. The discs are housed in a standard Blu-ray case, which is wrapped in a matching slipcover. The Blu-ray contains both the theatrical cut (1:46:09) and an unrated version (1:52:15) with a few inconsequential added scenes.
The extras include a number of amusing deleted scenes (14:54/HD) and alternate takes (10:32/HD). There is also a gag reel (6:24/HD) and a featurette about John and Ted's big fight scene called Teddy Bear Scuffle (5:38/HD). Ted: The Making Of (24:42/HD) is a three-part mini documentary about the production that features cast and crew interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. Most interesting are the insights into filming and animating Ted. There is also a funny Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Seth MacFarlane, Co-Writer Alec Sulkin and Star Mark Wahlberg, in which MacFarlane discusses the challenges of directing and acting on the same film. Universal also includes its My Scenes bookmarking feature and a BD-Live Portal.
Seth MacFarlane's directorial debut Ted cleaned up at the box office last summer for good reason. Audiences found a lot to love in "Family Guy" creator MacFarlane's comedy, which mixes his off-color humor with friendship and relationship drama. Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis act alongside CGI creation Ted, a foul-mouthed, living teddy bear that is impressively rendered. The film veers a bit too far into dramatic territory, but there are plenty of laughs to be had in this raunchy comedy. Recommended.
William lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.