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Friday, August 29, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 72.0° F  Partly Cloudy
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Ted brings a stuffed toy to life
Smarter than the average bear
on
Gleefully coarse wit.
Gleefully coarse wit.

Ted is the first live-action feature film by Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy): the misadventures of a miraculous, talking teddy bear and his human, 35-year-old best friend forever (Mark Wahlberg). The cast is fine; the script is teasingly self-referential and packed with MacFarlane's gleefully coarse wit; and the digitally animated Ted is a visually flawless creation.

So what's not to love? For starters, there's the inescapable fact that Ted is yet another man-child buddy movie, and all that that implies. The film opens in Boston in 1985 with a plummy narration by Patrick Stewart, explaining how one Christmas young John Bennett, an everyboy outsider, wishes his new teddy bear to life. Voilà! Voiced by the director, the bear is extremely close kin to MacFarlane's television Family.

Cutting to the present, John is spinning his wheels in a dead-end job while sharing wake 'n' bake bong hits. He's somehow managed to hold on to girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis) for four years - mainly because, as MacFarlane repeatedly shows, he's a lovable lout with a huge heart beneath all that crass irresponsibility.

The comedy here, as in most everything else MacFarlane has done, arises from a deep well of political incorrectness. More than a few waves of genuine laughter swept through the audience at the screening I attended.

There are episodes of Family Guy that make Ted feel like Winnie the Pooh. But it's an impressively cohesive feature debut, despite the fact that we've seen it all before, in one form or another.

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