Release Date: August 1st, 2012
Director: Seth MacFarlane
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane
Seth MacFarlane has always been somewhat hit or miss for me. On paper, I should probably be Family Guy’s number one fan given its blatant appreciation of broadway tunes, big band music, pop culture and controversial comedy. However it has yet to really click, and I find myself in a state of irritation more often than enjoyment as I persevere with the show in the hope of finding a clarifying “Ah-ha!” moment.
The trailers for Ted really wanted you to know that this was from the minds behind the Griffin family’s antics over the last decade, and while I appreciate that the role of a marketing department is to generate interest around a product, I had hoped that Ted was going to be more than just live-action Family Guy. Thankfully, while Ted wears the Family Guy legacy on its sleeve it does so in a way which is usually not invasive, instead leaving room to develop a voice of its own.
Ted tells the story of a young boy, John Bennett (Wahlberg), who makes a simple wish — that his new teddy bear was real, and that they could be best friends for ever and ever. Of course, this wish comes true and the film jumps in time almost 30 years to present day, where Ted (MacFarlane) and John are roommates with neither of their lives amounting to anything significant. This dynamic increasingly becomes a strain on John’s girlfriend Lori (Kunis), who is desperately looking to take their relationship further.
From that brief synopsis, you would be forgiven to think that Ted could be a light summer family film, but the 15 certification is wholly justified. MacFarlane generously sprinkles his crude, witty, self-reflexive and twisted sense of humour throughout, creating wonderfully fun juxtapositions between the child-friendly image of the bear and the ridiculous situations he finds himself in.
The cast perform well, Wahlberg and Kunis have a great chemistry and there are a host of great cameo appearances throughout, but Ted steals the show. John and Ted have a great, snappy back-and-forth banter which would not look out of place in a Kevin Smith script, but perhaps the best compliment I could pay the film is that while I was watching I completely forgot about the fact that the titular character was computer-generated. The acting does not come across as fragmented or inhibited in any way — even action-packed sequences which involve a lot of movement both in and of the frame were legitimately well-handled.
Fans of Family Guy will be well-accustomed to the swing and big band-influenced scoring throughout the show, but it was refreshing to hear Walter Murphy’s sound on the big screen. The soundtrack plays off the action really well, and seems to nod to as many popular culture icons as the script does, casually throwing around motifs from a decent historical repertoire. It makes for fun listening to the keen-eared and is definitely in keeping with the spirit of the film.
As far as the story is concerned, it is unfortunate to find that Ted is a largely predictable and shallow affair. Nothing regarding the plot feels original and it ultimately echoes the broad strokes from any “rom-com with a third wheel” plot that you will have seen countless times by now. It would have been great to have seen a curveball thrown in to freshen up the second act, where the film does seem to lose its footing. It is almost a surprising to see Ted fall into this trap, as it is so brazenly cocky and self-aware of almost every other convention it makes use of. I also felt that the villains of the piece — Donny, and his obese son — could have done with an extra scene or two to ensure that they fully earned the amount of screen time dedicated to them in the third act.
Ted is a thoroughly entertaining watch. While it is not going to win any points for originality in its structure, it redeems itself in execution. It is rude, ridiculous and twisted, but at its core is a well-intentioned and surprisingly heartfelt film about a man who finds it difficult to part with teddy bear. What’s not to love about that?