The story of a grown man still attached to his magically talking teddy bear, "Ted" is a throwback to high-concept charmers like "Big" and "Splash," only with more profanity and bowel-movement jokes (and without Tom Hanks). It's frequently very funny, as you might expect from its writer, director and co-star, Seth MacFarlane, creator of Fox's "Family Guy." What's unexpected is that underneath the matted fur of the movie's foul-mouthed bear beats a very real heart.
Mark Wahlberg plays John Bennett, an amiable Boston bozo who as a child wished his toy bear, Ted, to life. That event made the news ("Look what Jesus did!" screams a Southern televangelist) and turned the bear into a celebrity, but nearly 30 years later, John and Ted (voiced with some genuine emotion by MacFarlane) remain the best of friends, clutching each other during the night and smoking bongs during the day. Meanwhile, John's longtime girlfriend, Lori (Mila Kunis), waits patiently for a proposal.
The banter between Wahlberg and MacFarlane is hilarious -- they're like a low-class Abbott and Costello -- if a little familiar after years of Judd Apatow comedies. But MacFarlane's first feature film also avoids some genre pitfalls. Lori isn't a nagging killjoy; Ted is a real character, not just a symbol; and John seems genuinely torn between the two. This may sound silly, but the two humans and one bear make a pretty convincing dramatic triangle.
The drawbacks are a throwaway plot involving a bear-napper (Giovanni Ribisi) and way too many 1980s references for one movie (in addition to an appearance by Sam Jones, of "Flash Gordon" fame, there are jokes about Frankie Munoz, Tiffany, "Top Gun" and other memes). Still, any comedy that makes you actually feel something for a bear with a hooker habit has something going for it.
PLOT A grown man tries to separate from his magically talking teddy bear. RATING (profanity, sexuality, drug use)
PLAYING AT Area theaters
BOTTOM LINE Outrageously vulgar and very funny, with an unexpected bonus: A real, beating heart.