Naughty 'Ted' will crack you up

If you can see only one movie about a degenerate, foul-mouthed, beer-swilling, hooker-loving, weed-smoking, cashier-banging, coke-snorting stuffed bear this summer, it had might as well be "Ted."

The big-screen debut of "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane, who directs and shares script credit with "Family Guy" writers Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild, "Ted" has the feel of a live-action version of that animated smash.

It features plenty of "Family Guy" regulars, most notably Mila Kunis, Patrick Warburton, Alex Borstein and MacFarlane, whose voice for Ted the bear lands in that very narrow gap between Peter Griffin and Brian the dog.

The projects sound even more alike thanks to the shared services of composer Walter Murphy.

And their cringe-inducing jokes hit many of the same targets, including (but certainly not limited to) gays, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Asians, fat people, rape, 9/11 and farts. Lotsa farts.

The biggest difference? Instead of Peter fighting a chicken, Ted fights a duck.

In the delightfully sweet, storybook opening (regally narrated by Patrick Stewart), a friendless boy named John (Bretton Manley) gets a Teddy Ruxpin-style bear for Christmas. His only wish is that Teddy were alive, so they could be real best friends "forever and ever."

Because there's nothing more powerful than a child's wish - except, Stewart notes, an Apache helicopter - Teddy springs to life, able to walk, play and offer innocent, squeaky-voiced comfort to John during frightening storms as his "thunder buddy for life."

Cut to 27 years later, and Ted's a vulgar, washed-up celebrity - he became a brief media sensation, including a memorable appearance on "The Tonight Show" - who spends his days getting high and watching "Flash Gordon."

And he's never left the side of John (played as an adult by Mark Wahlberg), now a 35-year-old underachiever who works at a Boston rental car agency and never really grew up.

This is cause for understandable concern for John's live-in girlfriend (Kunis) who, after an unfortunate incident involving Ted, four prostitutes and some fecal matter, forces John to choose. It's either Ted or her.

Not surprisingly, Ted is quickly dispatched to a skeevy apartment. Thunder buddies or not, if Mila Kunis asks you to give up your talking teddy bear, you give up your talking teddy bear. If Mila Kunis asks you to eat a baby seal while bulldozing an orphanage, you at least give the request the careful consideration it deserves.

The childhood friends' separation, though, serves to set up a bizarre subplot involving an obsessed fan - portrayed by Giovanni Ribisi with his patented brand of Ribisian dirtbaggery - that plays out like "Quentin Tarantino's Toy Story."

Much like with an episode of "Family Guy," you'll laugh, uncomfortably at first, as if doing so is putting a dark stain on your soul. Then, after a brief shame spiral, you'll realize you're in the dark, that no one can see you cackling at some random, horribly offensive gag, and you'll eventually just give in to "Ted's" silly, naughty, juvenile charm.

Either that or you'll want to set it on fire.

Wahlberg deserves special recognition for playing the straight man in all this, making viewers believe in his love for and interactions with - especially during a comically brutal fight scene - a co-star that was never really there.

"Ted" also gets a lot of mileage out of some fun cameos by a handful of up-for-anything celebrities that are too good to spoil.

But - and this can't be stressed enough - while it stars a talking teddy bear and features a surprising amount of heart and emotion, any parents who bring their young children to this deserve to be brought up on charges.

"Ted" likely won't win any awards - at least not any that it wants - but it's tough to imagine laughing any harder this summer.

Or feeling worse about doing so.

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@ or 702-380-4567.