'Ted': What the Critics are Saying
THR's Todd McCarthy says Seth MacFarlane serves up laughs from beginning to end in his movie debut.
The creator of Family Guy, Seth MacFarlane, makes his feature film debut with Ted, hitting theaters June 29.
Ted, voiced by MacFarlane, is a foul-mouthed, pot smoking and partying companion of John (Mark Wahlberg), a bear who came to life in a Christmas wish John made when he was a kid. Complete with burp and fart jokes, critics think Family Guy fans will be pleased with the Boston-based goof.
The film received a 65 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes from top critics. Read below for a sampling of Ted reviews.
The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy says MacFarlane serves up laughs from beginning to end without any feeling of strain. He admits that certain aspects of the premise may deter viewers, “but the comedy quotient is more than high enough to prompt upbeat word-of –mouth and solid summer business.”
MacFarlane’s “wise-ass, ecumenically offensive joke-making” is apparent throughout the movie, and the film serves up “cutaway digressions that are hilarious partly for being so unexpected.”
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times raves that “the funniest movie character so far this year is a stuffed teddy bear.” He also says the movie is the best comedy screenplay so far.
He notes that the laughs in Ted come largely through the bear’s dialogue. The plot, Ebert says, is “fairly standard but greatly embellished by MacFarlane’s ability to establish comic situations and keep them building.”
The remarkable thing about Ted, Ebert says, is that it doesn’t run out of steam.
Associated Press critic Christy Lemire says “in a lot of ways, Ted feels like a live-action, big-screen version of Family Guy with its pop-culture references and inappropriate racial humor, flashbacks and non sequiturs.”
Ted happens to be sweeter than you might expect, she says, despite its predictable formula. Lemire explains that “some of the one-liners and gross-out gags show signs of strain,” but it has a climax that “will warm the heart of anyone with New England ties.”
“Wahlberg does his best work in situations like this,” Lemire adds, “where he's playing it totally straight in a setting that's totally silly.”
Will Leitch of Deadspin, wholeheartedly disagrees, writing, "[Wahlberg] is surprisingly game here, but he's all wrong for the part."
There may, in fact, be nothing that Leitch likes about the movie. Of the plot, he says: "of the myriad problems with Ted, Seth MacFarlane's flaming, masturbating fart of a comedy, the biggest one is that the teddy bear at its center is neither cute nor funny. The movie thinks he's both."
"There's a prevalent, almost proud laziness to the humor of Ted," he continues. "The movie's premise isn't a bad one, but even its theme feels creaky and bored."
TIME critic Mary Pols references another talking animal movie in her review. “Ted’s setup calls to mind The Beaver, another movie about dependency on a stuffed animal, although Ted is free of The Beaver’s pretensions and the unpleasantness of trying to get the audience to sympathize with Mel Gibson,” she observes.
She warns that “the genteel and prudish better stay away from Ted,” but MacFarlane and Family Guy fans will enjoy it, and perhaps new fans will as well.
A.O. Scott of The New York Times wasn’t much as a fan, declaring, “there are jokes that are funny only because a stuffed bear says them, jokes that are not funny even though a stuffed bear says them and jokes that may or may not be funny because of Mark Wahlberg.”
“Mila Kunis is also in the movie," he notes, "but she can’t be funny because she’s a girl, and her job is to be amused, tolerant and pretty.”
Although the film strives for “obnoxious hilarity,” Scott says the only thing the “harmless little picture” is able to manage is “tolerant amusement.”
The sin of Ted, he says, is “not that it is offensive but that it is boring, lazy and wildly unoriginal.”
Betsy Sharkey of Los Angeles Times says, "it's the, ahem, embellishments that make the film unique. If there is misbehaving to be done, and there is a lot of it, you can bet a bear is involved."
"The comic targets run the gamut — race, religion, relationships, reality, etc," Sharkey says. "While nothing is sacred, the sacrilege comes with just enough sweetness to offset the salt."
Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers disagrees, giving the film three out of four stars saying MacFarlane, “the brainy, bawdy creator of those kickass shows, does not cater to audiences who call him juvenile, stupid, vulgar and foul-mouthed.”
Travers warns that the film is not for MacFarlane haters.
For fans? His debut as a feature director “hits all the sweet sports the irritate prudes.”
It’s dirty, completely R-rated, and “hysterically, gut-bustingly funny,” according to Travers, and fans of MacFarlane -- or crude humor -- should hit the theaters June 29.
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