In Seth MacFarlane's feature debut, Ted is a foul-mouthed, lazy, inconsiderate plush animal who has far more sex than the average bear -- even though he doesn't have any sex organs.
In a 1980s flashback scene, Ted is given to an eight-year-old, friendless John Bennett (Bretton Manley) as a Christmas present. Desperate for companionship, the young Bennett wishes upon a star that his teddy bear will come to life and be his best friend forever. His wish is granted, to his parents' momentary (and hilarious) horror, and Ted becomes a worldwide phenomenon after news of the Christmas miracle makes headlines.
Cut to present day, when a now 35-year-old John (Mark Wahlberg) shares a well-appointed Boston apartment with his girlfriend, Lori (Mila Kunis), and his furry 'Thunder Buddy' (neither man nor beast have outgrown a phobia of thunderstorms, among other things.) John works as a middling salesman at a car rental agency, while Ted spends his days -- often in John's company -- ripping bong hits on the couch while watching vintage Flash Gordon episodes.
It's presumably Lori's job at a PR agency, where she is routinely hit on by her snake of a boss (Joel McHale), that keeps a modestly upscale roof over their head and an endless supply of beer in the fridge -- we can presume that John makes less than the $38,000 salary promised to him in a big promotion, if he doesn't f**k up.
Which, naturally, he does in spades. John is a loveable lug of that particular South Boston flavor, which MacFarlane nails: long on good intentions but tragically short on execution. Despite a genuine eagerness to please, his preternatural tendency to disappoint threatens to derail a promising future with a woman who truly loves him even though she is far, far too good for him. Since Lori (rightly) blames Ted for her boyfriend's arrested development, John is forced to choose between his best buddy and the best thing that ever happened to him.
It's a no-brainer, of course, but brains are few and far between in this often funny, occasionally charming bromance.
The Family Guy creator penned the script with two of the show's writers, Wellesley Wild and Alec Sulkin -- who is perhaps best known for his popular Twitter feed @thesulk and for having dated Sara Silverman. These men (boys?) are clearly no strangers to the ameliorating power of a good joke: Boorish behavior and limited sex appeal can be forgiven if you can make a girl laugh.
This goes a long way toward explaining Ted's success with women (that, and the fact that he was once a celebrity, because of course, any woman -- including a talented pop superstar -- will go to bed with a man or bear who's had a brush with fame.) Indeed, Ted is a very funny character, and the movie itself has more than a handful of laugh-out-loud moments.
Ted is responsible for most of the laughs, John a few, and Lori -- as Ted is a wish fulfillment bromance fantasy made for and by men -- not a single one. Instead, as we see far too often in movies like this, Lori is the bland, cheerfully put-upon straight (wo)man whose central purpose is to show that even the most irresponsible, reckless men-children are worthy of love.
To be fair, this is a buddy comedy, and Ted' is only slightly guiltier of tokenizing the female love interests than Bridesmaids did the men. But it betrays an off-putting extension of the urbanite 'Beauty and The Beast' construct immortalized by Woody Allen's habitual casting of gorgeous starlets as his own leading ladies. In MacFarlane's world, not only does the undeserving guy get the light-years-out-of-his-league girl, she is obligated to both love him unconditionally and afford him a lifestyle that he would never be able to have on his own. This added burden would be easy to ignore if it weren't for the insidious subtext that women measure a man's worth by the size of his bank account or his level of fame -- a subtext that conveniently ignores the fact that Lori and John have been together and on the same course for four years by the time we meet them. Only now that John is 35 and clearly unfulfilled does Lori politely insist that he finally grow up.
There is nothing inherently wrong with permitting the good hearted loser to get the golden girl. But it would be nice, for a change, if the girl could get a little something from the script for her trouble -- like a joke of her own.