I’ll get the complaining out of the way first.
There’s a contract you establish with an audience when you present them with an incessantly vulgar, frequently scatological, R-rated comedy about a 35-year-old man-child (Mark Wahlberg) and his profanity-bombing, drug-using, hooker-renting, magically alive teddy bear (Seth MacFarlane). That contract should, ideally, feature the following clauses: no TV-drama-adjacent heartfelt messages and no needless chick bashing, only fun times and lightweight, breezy, implausibility. This is a universe in which teddy bears come to walking and talking life, after all, one in which everybody accepts the situation as something that could ever happen. Shouldn’t, then, anything be allowed to take place in this fantasy kingdom, including the dismantling of conventional movie wisdom and the abolition of trite misogyny?
The answer to that is “yes.” And so it’s a little bit of a bummer to report that in its last act the film feels an obligation to teach everybody a lesson about friendship and, before that, a series of minor, nagging lessons about what a drag it is to have a girlfriend with anything resembling a human need. I know Seth MacFarlane is cooler than that, I’ve seen him chop down ideologues on Real Time with Bill Maher, so I don’t know why he felt like it was necessary, here, to turn Mila Kunis into the film’s biggest buzzkill (when she’s onscreen it’s only to tell Mark Wahlberg to straighten up, fly right and put a ring on it) and then get all tender with a teddy bear’s widdle feewings. Depending on your perspective and how much you’re paying attention, this will be a little or a lot dispiriting.
The great news is that it’s relatively easy to pretend that the stuff you might find yourself hating isn’t even in the movie. That’s how disgustingly and gut-bustingly funny it is. It’s as if every time Judd Apatow infused warmth, humanity and likeability into a young-ish male character who couldn’t quite grow up, this movie silently incubated in a dark corner, soaked up that decency, processed it like a snake, excreted it through a pair of crap-trapping gills and made room for more poop jokes and random stupid/smart gags, exponentially increasing its power along the way. Then it decided to toss in the winning distraction of some Family Guy-level pop culture riffing via a scene that re-enacts a movie scene that is, itself, a re-enactment of a movie scene and, finally, bring in the guy from Flash Gordon to snort cocaine with a stuffed animal.
At one point, Ted lays out the film’s best intentions for everyone to read. He announces to Kunis that if the stoned, running verbal joke he and Wahlberg are volleying back and forth were to be removed from its context, they would simply be “idiots saying nonsense.” But the movie knows that that’s exactly what they are, context or not, and is very quick to let them off the hook for both their idiocy and their nonsense, like a summer comedy about a talking teddy bear should.
By Dave White