DIRECTOR: Seth MacFarlane.
CAST: Mark Wahlberg, Seth MacFarlane (voice), Mila Kunis, Joel McHale, Giovanni Ribisi, Aedin Mincks, Jessica Barth, Patrick Warburton, Bretton Manley, Patrick Stewart.
SYNOPSIS: After a childhood wish turns Christmas present Ted into a real life teddy bear, John (Wahlberg) realises it may be time to finally grow up after girlfriend Lori (Kunis) begins to feel that a pot-smoking stuffed toy may not be the best companion.
With the Griffin family rightfully earning their television cult status and the Smiths not too far behind, Family Guy and American Dad creator Seth MacFarlane had a lot to live up to when it came to his first motion picture. But unfortunately his first live-action film gives the sense that he may have already shown his cards – even if Patrick Stewart’s opening and closing narration tells us it is all one big overblown fairy tale.
Inherently one massive pop culture in-joke, those who aren’t up to speed with the references in characters’ pipedream moments are often left feeling alienated and a little dim, MacFarlane clearly enjoying flaunting his knowledge while also pandering to a ‘dumb’ audience with poop and cum jokes. But, while it’s safe to assume before the opening titles that Ted would have far more in common with Frankie Boyle than Paddington or Rupert, it is to MacFarlane’s credit that you frequently have to remind yourself that the titular ball of fur isn’t actually real.
Mark Wahlberg’s well-worn Bostonian twang is once again out in full force as Ted’s best bud, John, with their relationship having an unexpected element of heartache and tenderness amidst the eccentricity. While this guarantees you buy into Ted as more than just a mocap toy, it also proves Wahlberg’s effortless ability to improvise even when some of his big and genuinely hysterical lines are frustratingly thrown aside for more Ted time. But his white trash name call is well worth the wait.
However, it’s Kunis who truly shines as John’s girlfriend, Lori, once again showing why she is so in demand by bringing both heart and authenticity to the chaotic proceedings. Making everything more fun and impossible not to love, her third wheel is well written with her decisions never over the top and refreshingly remaining far from the damsel in distress.
One of the film’s chief flaws is in its unnecessary and irritatingly stereotypical supporting characters, with Patrick Warburton’s Guy the only player you want more from. Both Joel McHale and Giovanni Ribisi seem to serve as little more than exposition fodder to give proof as to why the main trio need each other, but while McHale’s Rex is seedy and his uncomfortable lines often miss the mark, Ribisi has a lot of fun as Ted-obsessed Donny, clearly proving why he would have failed any potential Magic Mike audition. Ted’s love interest Tami-Lynn (Barth) is also incredibly grating and generic, but you get the feeling this is poking fun at anyone who could fall for a stuffed toy, drawing a neat (if not a little too obvious) parallel to the dumb blondes that fall at Family Guy’s Brian’s feet.
Though Ted may be more than your average bear, there isn’t a great deal of surprise in the 1980s playground he resides in. While the script expectedly lays into everyone and everything (even our own Susan Boyle is targeted), it is only in the film’s cameos that we are caught unawares. Unfortunately this highlights MacFarlane’s predictability, or possibly his comfort zone when he has once again assembled favourite writers Wellesley Wild and Alec Sulkin as well as his own, personal maestro, Walter Murphy, to ensure Ted feels very much in the Family Guy realm.
While the final roll of Patrick Stewart recited jokes are inspired and though there may be sporadic flashes of genius, the majority of Ted remains a patchy and oddly embarrassing affair that proves rather tedious at times, while making you feel you have to laugh when not quite understanding why. Though it may be formulaic and a little too close to his other work for comfort, when it does fuse together, it showcases exactly why MacFarlane has been at the top of his game for so long.
With the anticipation for his first motion picture always going to be overwhelming, it is all too easy to say that MacFarlane set the bar too high. Though the megabucks will roll in off the back of Ted, fans need and should expect more from his first foray into film. Oh, and Seth? We know you were meant to be on one of the flights that was involved with 9/11, but that doesn’t make it funny.