I told you, “The Happening” looked good on paper.


Theatrical Release Date: 06/29/2012
Director: Seth MacFarlane
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth McFarlane (voice), Joel McHale, Giovanni Ribisi, Patrick Warburton, Jessica Barth, Matt Walsh, Patrick Stewart (narrator)
Rated: R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, and some drug use.
Runtime: 1 hour, 46 minutes


Trailer:

That apron fools no one, put on some pants at work!

As a child, the chances for a wish coming true generally revolved around Christmas presents or possible summer trips to theme parks run by giant rodents. In “Ted”, young John Bennett has a severe lack of friends and with the aid of a falling star’s magical properties (that’s science, yo), his teddy bear comes to life and the two become lifelong buds.

Director/co-writer Seth MacFarlane voices the bear, appropriately given the name Teddy by the boy. As the pair grow older, the friendship endures but it also restricts how Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) balances maturation with a healthy sense of childlike playfulness. Add in the complications of longtime girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis) and a creepy, creeper McCreeperson played by Giovanni Ribisi and you have the setup for this summer comedy.

Working very much in the film’s favor is the R-rating and MacFarlane’s trademark sense of humor, familiar to fans of the TV show “Family Guy” (in which Kunis has been a mainstay in voice work). There are live-action flashback sequences delivered in the same manner as the cartoon, the story is set in New England (Boston rather than Quahog), and the two main characters can essentially be viewed as Peter Griffin and Brian the dog. This doesn’t mean that audiences unfamiliar with the show won’t be amused; it’s merely the easy barometer to use if trying to decide if this is worth a trip to the theater.

There are some problems with story development that might stem from MacFarlane’s experience with short-format storytelling as opposed to feature films. While the opening sequences to explain how Ted came to be and set up the characters are done efficiently and effectively, maneuvering to a resolution is a bit awkward. The obvious and perfectly acceptable routes to go in a comedy like this are to either have Bennett win back Lori’s heart from a lecherous boss (Joel McHale) trying to woo her via his wealth, or to have the subplot involving Ribisi’s character and the lengths he’ll go to in order to possess Ted be the catalyst for solving Bennett’s problems with growing up. It’s not that there isn’t humor in doing both but it feels like over-thinking things and a problem in self-editing.

A reason working in favor of seeing the film sooner rather than later is being entertained and/or surprised by the cameos. Fans of the the 1980 version of “Flash Gordon” starring Sam J. Jones are going to be in nostalgia heaven, Norah Jones gets to dip her toe in the comedy waters via a small role and there’s one prominent actor who shows up in a nearly dialogue-free role that may not be as cool as Bill Murray’s inclusion in “Zombieland” but it’s a similar reaction that will likely ripple through theater audiences (and if anyone spoils it for you, they’re a jerk).

The bottom line is that “Ted” delivers laughs and is sure to please fans of MacFarlane’s work. A 3.5 out of 5, it would have been nice to trim up the plot and just include more on the DVD extras. Still, it’s a fun time in the theater and aside from “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World“, the only other intentional comedy in wide-release. I’ll let all you comedy junkies do the math.

3.5 out of 5