Friday Flicks: Will Ted Catapault Seth MacFarlane into the Big Leagues?

Grab some popcorn and check out the movies you should see (or avoid) this weekend.

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At 38, Seth MacFarlane is Hollywood’s golden child: the highest-paid screenwriter in television history thanks to his five-year, $100 million contract with Fox for his hit animated TV series Family Guy (and its siblings and spinoffs, American Dad and The Cleveland Show). Now, he’s extending his ambitions into film with Ted, a live action/CGI-animated comedy  starring Mark Wahlberg as John Bennett, a grown man dealing with his teddy bear who came to life thanks to a childhood wish and never went away (MacFarlane, of course, voices Ted — as well as directing and doing a few other things).

But does it work in the eyes of the critics? Rather ironically, The New Yorker, who lavished so many words on MacFarlane in a recent profile, isn’t entirely impressed. “It’s the comedy that never comes to life — the heavy-handed gags all but invite a laugh track — and a sentimental dénouement at Fenway Park is done by number.” (The Red Sox just can’t get a break this year, can they?). Time Out New York decides to take the “low-brow as art” approach.”Feel free to shake your head all you want: You can’t overestimate how funny it is to watch a stuffed bear behave boorishly, go on coke binges and engage in the greatest man-versus-plush-toy fistfight ever committed to celluloid—or how impressive it is that MacFarlane actually milks the movie’s high-concept premise for emotional resonance.” And the Hollywood Reporter cuddles Ted as if it were its own bear: “Not too many films serve up laughs that just keep on rolling with regularity from beginning to end, but Seth MacFarlane’s directorial debut does so and without any feeling of strain.”

TIME MAGAZINE: Is Seth MacFarlane Getting Serious?

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