Way back in 1985, when John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) was a boy, he just didn't fit in with his suburban Boston neighbourhood - not even the bullied kids would be his friends. Therefore one Christmas he was delighted to receive a teddy bear as a gift from his parents, claiming the soft toy as his new and only best friend, though that was not quite enough and one night he wished on a shooting star that Teddy could come to life. On waking the next morning, he was delighted to see it had come true, though his parents were more horrified. Once the shock had been coped with, Ted (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) won nationwide fame...
But when we catch up with John and Ted, a lot of water has passed under the bridge and the stuffed animal is yet another forgotten celebrity of the past; well, almost forgotten. This could have been the cue for a satirical examination of how fame affected those hasbeens who could not quite cope with civilian life, but for director Seth MacFarlane, hitherto best known for his cartoons on television such as Family Guy, it was more a cue to look at male bonding and what to do should a third party enter the scene, such as a girlfriend for one of the pals. In this case she was Lori, and as she was played by Mila Kunis that was an indication MacFarlane was reluctant to leave the talent he had worked with on TV behind.
There were smaller roles for the other voice casts of his shows, so if nothing else it was nice for the fans to put faces to them, and the two writers assisting the director on script duties were also scribes from MacFarlane's small screen exploits, for example. Not only that, but the pop culture reference bank that was Family Guy was effectively replicated in movie form, though there were no cutaways both John and Ted were fond of such humour in their dialogue, however there was a major difference here. That's right, Star Wars references were kept to a minimum, perhaps reasoning that TV sketch show Robot Chicken had drained that well dry, so now there was a far cultier object of affection to consider: Flash Gordon.
Not Buster Crabbe but the 1980 Sam J. Jones version, and what a wealth of material these writers found there, even drafting in Jones himself to play up the crazed celebrity role much in the way Neil Patrick Harris sent himself up in the Harold & Kumar comedies. It had to be said Ted mined much the same kind of humour, so there was plenty of profanity, simulated drug use and sex talk of the kind MacFarlane and company had to be a little more oblique about on television but could give full rein to away from the goggle box's censors. More often than not, while there were instances where they came across as trying that bit too hard to shock, for the most part the laughs they found were genuine.
Much of that was down to Ted essentially being a children's movie for adults: imagine if E.T. had been a foul-mouthed, bong-smoking ladies man (or ladies, er, alien) and you had some idea of where this was aiming. You could decry the infantalisation of modern populist humour in light of this becoming one of the highest-grossing comedies of all time, but the fact remained if a joke was funny, it was worth going with and Ted had enough of a sense of the ridiculous to succeed. That it turned itself into an unlikely thriller in its final act, though not out of the blue to be fair, was neither here nor there other than many big studio comedies seemed to end on a big action sequence (who knew The Cable Guy would have been so influential?), though all that business did tend to distract from a semi-serious examination of what to do when girl wants boy to grow up and settle down, and boy is too connected to his friends to really make that commitment, but that was the stuff of too many sitcoms anyway. Best to enjoy the risque gags. Music by Walter Murphy.