**1/2 (out of four)
Early on in “Ted,” the titular walking, talking teddy bear (voiced by director/co-writer Seth MacFarlane) watches “Jack and Jill” with four prostitutes at his side. Ted, who possesses a large sex drive for a creature with no genitalia, calls the Adam Sandler film “unwatchable.” Let's see here:
-- Sandler movies: full of homophobic jokes. “Ted”: full of homophobic jokes.
-- Sandler movies: Characters constantly crack up at the expense of people who are overweight and/or farting. “Ted”: Some fat jokes, more fart jokes.
-- Sandler movies: Shamelessly embrace Jewish stereotypes. “Ted”: Frequently plays anti-Semitism for laughs.
Maybe “Family Guy” creator MacFarlane shouldn't throw quite so many stones. He takes aim at several other easy targets, including Sinead O'Connor, Corey Feldman and Taylor Lautner. Wow, no one's ever cracked a joke about them, you fearless satirist.
Now, in a random left turn characteristic of the “Or remember that time you ___” humor in “Family Guy,” here's where I note that somehow “Ted” won me over anyway. Maybe it’s because of the underlying sweetness within the decades-long friendship between 35-year-old John (Mark Wahlberg, hilarious) and Ted, his fuzzy, foulmouthed best friend who came to life after John made a wish when he was 8. Ted enjoyed brief celebrity, appearing on magazine covers and sitting down with Johnny Carson, but nobody except a creep played by Giovanni Ribisi cares anymore. Now, Ted and John still call themselves “Thunder buddies” and sing a song to prevent themselves from being afraid of a noisy night. Love that.
Or maybe I like “Ted” because MacFarlane and two other “Family Guy” writers rattle off so many jokes that the aforementioned awfulness becomes stirred into a pot with a decent percentage of funny. “Ted” boasts a quick, occasionally inspired energy. One particular favorite: Ted’s version of talking dirty. “Stick your finger in the loop of my tag,” he says, while he and a grocery store co-worker do things that responsible employees shouldn’t do on top of food items.
Sure, a dream sequence recalls “Anchorman” while “Family Guy” alum Mila Kunis, as John’s girlfriend who wants Ted to move out, rehashes her role from “Friends with Benefits”—albiet mixed with a rawer version of Amy Adams’ third-wheel frustration in “The Muppets.” Yet “Ted” moves from big laugh to nastiness to big laugh without firmly being defined by either. And Wahlberg and Kunis do mesh nicely, whether or not it’s a factor of previously collaborating on “Max Payne.”
MacFarlane obviously gets a kick out of bad taste, and sometimes his ridiculous gags go nowhere. (Ted fighting a duck named James Franco, what?) The first-time feature filmmaker crafts an endearing, entertainingly raunchy nod to childhood wonder and the need to make adult decisions.
Unfortunately, he also delivers more mean-spirited, condescending evidence that he thinks the entertainment industry should bow down to his pop culture-referencing, one-man show.
Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 7:30 a.m. on WCIU, the U