1. Of the myriad problems with Ted, Seth MacFarlane's flaming, masturbating fart of a comedy, the biggest one is that the teddy bear at its center is neither cute nor funny. The movie thinks he's both. For the movie's promising central joke to work—that a boy's teddy bear comes to life and then grows up alongside him to be a rude south Boston fahhhhk yooooo mouth breather—you need there to be a legitimate cognitive dissonance between the bear and what he's saying, and you need to commit to the joke. (Bad Santa is funny because you're not supposed to like Bad Santa.) The bear exists in the universe of the movie for no other reason than the movie thinks it's funnier to have stale pop-culture riffs delivered from the mouth of an unconvincing CGI stuffed teddy bear—hey, guys, did you know that Jack and Jill is awful? Ted does! And he's not afraid to say it!—than from the mouth of a regular person. But the bear isn't even cute or inventively designed: He's just a damned bear. Ted never quite figures out what to do with the bear other than to turn him into Seth MacFarlane. The movie stopped thinking about its premise seconds after coming up with it.
2. There's a prevalent, almost proud laziness to the humor of Ted, which is why complaining about its offensiveness is less "political correctness"—Seth MacFarlane does seem like the person who would use the term "political correctness" as a relevant pejorative in the year 2012—than the recognition of high-grade hackery. The Dictator, for example, is a movie that is far more "offensive" than Ted, but it wields its terrorism and rape jokes like a scalpel; Ted just drunkenly throws a dull axe through a window. I'm sure the film's repeated—repeated—gay jokes would work if there were some thought put into them beyond the "Jack-O and Sully banter" level, but the movie doesn't want to put in the work. It just wants to snigger. The jokes in Ted are equal-opportunity sluggish: The inoffensive ones are just as limp and tired as the offensive ones. This is the type of movie that flashes to a scene in 2008 at a dance club and has a character say, "Man, this Chris Brown, he can really do no wrong." Seriously, the movie really makes that joke. At one point, Ted says, "Hey, I do not sound like Peter Griffin." Yeah.
3. Again, the movie's premise isn't a bad one, but even its theme feels creaky and bored: Sometimes it's difficult for men these days to stop partying and act like an adult. (Even Judd Apatow bailed on this four years ago.) The driving force of the "plot" is Ted's lifelong best friend John (played by Mark Wahlberg simply because he's from Boston) trying to grow up and balance his buddy Ted and his beautiful, infinitely understanding girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis). The movie pretends it wants John to grow up, but you don't believe it for a second; Lori is a humorless drip—bitches just don't understand, man—and the movie clearly revels in the "party" scenes of John and Ted being bros, bro. (Are you ready for a scene of a teddy bear doing cocaine? Can you handle it?) But it can't even do this right. If you can't wring something funny out of a four-minute fight scene between a jacked Mark Wahlberg and a teddy bear—the movie plays it oddly straight?—I'm not sure you're maximizing the resources you have at hand.
4. Wahlberg, an actor for whom I'll confess little affection, is surprisingly game here, but he's all wrong for the part. John is supposed to be some sort of slacker oaf, a Seth Rogen or Jonah Hill type who would rather sit on the coach, get stoned, and watch Flash Gordon than do something with his life. John must have a couple of Shake Weights or something, though, because he's cartoonishly muscled for someone who supposedly just jerks around all the time. (There's never been a less-convincing rental-car company middle manager than Mark Wahlberg.) Various funny actors—Joel McHale (who does have a few moments), Patrick Warburton, and Matt Walsh—are wasted to the point that you're pretty sure MacFarlane forgot about them until his camera happened to fly by them every 20 minutes. But you have to feel especially bad for Kunis, an intriguing actress who is actually, you know, funny but who is here forced to play the stick-in-the-mud WOMAN CREATURE supporting these idiots. It is to her credit that her eyes never once roll into the back of her head. This movie is pitched at, and made by, two drunk Red Sox fans fighting each other in an alleyway.
5. Insanely, the movie, out of nowhere, turns soft and mushy on us at the end, as if everyone forgot they'd been making a movie and suddenly remembered just in time. But there isn't a moment in the film that feels true, full-hearted, sincere; it's just a scattershot, addled, endless pattering of screams for attention every three seconds. Some of these jokes do land; there are simply too many of them not to. (There are two legitimately funny fart gags in the film. This is no small feat, actually. And as much as MacFarlane drives me crazy as a joke creator, he has undeniable comedic timing as a performer. Even if I think he's just talking to himself.) The movie never once gives the slightest indication it cares about any of its characters or anything that is happening, so at the end, when the music rises (and it actually does), the nakedness of this whole enterprise is that much more exposed. There's nothing to grab onto here; this movie doesn't care about anything but itself and its own supposed cleverness. Ted is soulless, angry-white-guy comedy at its worst. Honestly: This is a smug, nasty little number.
Grierson & Leitch is a regular column about the movies. Follow us on Twitter, @griersonleitch.