Crazy fun but a Ted offensive

TED (M18) Comedy/106 minutes

Anyone who has loved a stuffed toy as a kid and yearned for it to be real would probably identify with the protagonists in Ted, Seth MacFarlane's big-screen directorial debut.

In this movie, the titular character, a teddy bear voiced by MacFarlane, comes to life when its owner, a lonely eight-year- old boy, wishes upon a star.

For a brief moment, the duo enjoy instant fame as celebrities and even guest star on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

Fast-forward 27 years and the world has forgotten them, the two pals having evolved (or rather, devolved) into potty- mouthed, pop culture-savvy deadbeats.

John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg), the boy who has now become a considerably older man, still refuses to grow up, content with spending his days watching Flash Gordon with his furry buddy and ducking under the sheets in terror during thunderstorms.

Mila Kunis plays John's long-suffering girlfriend who, after one catastrophic dinner date too many, delivers an ultimatum - it's her or the bear.

Meanwhile, Ted gets a job as a store clerk so as to score with an attractive checkout girl (the fact that he's a toy does not tame his libido), while a mysterious stalker (Giovanni Ribisi) has his eye on the bear as a gift for his spoilt son.

Fans of MacFarlane and his TV shows Family Guy, American Dad and The Cleveland Show will no doubt enjoy his usual brand of no-holds-barred, politically incorrect humour, now unleashed on a larger scale in a feature-length film.

Some of his favourite tropes, such as cutaway gags, the use of big swing numbers and kitschy 1980s references, are on full display - like in one memorable scene where John meets his childhood idol, Sam Jones (in a cameo appearance as himself), and has a ridiculously non-sequitur dream sequence.

Wahlberg turns in an empathetic performance as the man-child torn between the love of his life and his best friend, while Kunis' character gets to do a lot of eye-rolling and tongue-wagging at her immature boyfriend's antics.

MacFarlane's Ted is a marvel of CGI compositing, his gestures and expressions so human-like that I sometimes forget I'm watching an anthropomorphic child's plaything spewing lewd remarks and performing even ruder acts.

An over-the-top fist fight between John and Ted in a motel room was so surreal that I couldn't help cringing and laughing at the same time.

But what could have potentially been a one-trick teddy was thankfully lifted by the touching "bromance" between the two male leads. We've all had friends who want only the best for us, and some who, without meaning to, hold us back. Sometimes, we find one who's both, as embodied by the irreverent but lovable Ted.

Although the film may be mean-spirited at times, the unconditional love and loyalty the odd couple have for each other make them endearing enough for me to root for them to still be together by the time the credits rolled.

Apart from a predictable plot and a lacklustre third act, MacFarlane's delayed-coming-of-age tale of a guy, a girl and a bear is as heart-warmingly charming as it is jaw-droppingly offensive in parts.


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