Ted picks up the overgrown man-child themes of the last decade of Apatow-owned comedies and gives them a plush body of their own to wreak havoc with. It's a familiar story: thirty-something year old underachiever has a successful love interest who's getting pretty tired of watching her boyfriend waste his time smoking pot, partying like it's college, and geeking out about some token element of pop culture. We know what has to happen next. It's time to man-up and conform to the socially acceptable definition of 'adult'. Yet, in giving immaturity a physical manifestation and making it an actual character, Ted manages to complicate a cliche discussion in a way that's rather admirably clever. After all: it's one thing to try and demand that you set aside childish things to come to their work function, but, how do you tell a teddy bear to grow up? And, how on Earth can you separate a grown-ass man from the walking, talking, defenseless living creature who has been his constant companion for nearly three decades?
Spoiler alert: you can't. Not really. Or, well, you could, but no one would want to see that movie. Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane is at the helm of Ted, and the film plays out with the jumpy, vignette-style of a particularly sweet-natured episode of that cartoon. True, the jokes are politically incorrect, the raunch factor is high, and our teddy bear smokes a lot of weed, drinks a lot of booze, and somehow manages to pick up a lot of ladies; but, the framework is that of a subverted children's story. Ted opens with the magical Christmas morning that young John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) receives an oversized teddy bear and immediately picks him up as a confidant. John is a friendless child, but a chipper one, and when he wishes his teddy bear could actually converse with him, some strange bit of magic makes it come true. Instead of keeping it a secret, Ted becomes a news sensation and minor celebrity, a story that renders him able to carry out a public life as the two age together. Ted isn't an imaginary friend, a secret, or a representation of John Bennett's id. He's just a non-negotiable part of his life, and unfortunately one with the time and barrier-less proximity to leap into bed between John and his long-term girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis) at the first sound of thunder.
Generally speaking, it works. Ted is an entertaining diversion packed with enough successful laughs to keep it going. Yet, just because it can keep going doesn't mean it should. Past a certain point, the joke starts to wear thin and the plot isn't original enough to sustain its run time. While the adaptation of the "manchild" comedy is remarkably clever, and (to his credit) MacFarlane manages to sidestep the 'domineering bitch' tropes that would plague the Lori character in the hands of a different writer/director, when the story starts looking for a complication late in the game, things become a little tiresome. Ultimately, Ted is just another arrested development romantic comedy that happens to be appropriately disguised as a super-crass overgrown kids movie.