Seth MacFarlane has quite a fanbase nowadays. Personally, I am a big fan of Family Guy and will watch an episode whenever I have the good fortune to catch it on TV. I’ve only seen clips of American Dad! but it seems to be just as good, albeit in a slightly different way (the details differ but the inspired lunacy remains the same). The fact that he also wrote one of the best modern cartoons that I ever had the pleasure of catching on Nickelodeon, that would be Johnny Bravo, just cements his deserved reputation as a creator of comedy gold.
Maybe that weight of expectation is what held me back from loving Ted. Maybe, yet I think there are a few more things to point to that will explain why I ended up laughing hard at some moments in this adult comedy before still feeling disappointment as the end credits rolled and then forming the opinion that the movie just managed to pull itself above average. Just.
The story, for those of you who have remained blissfully ignorant, is all about a boy and the teddy bear that he receives for Christmas. The boy makes a wish and that wish comes true – his teddy bear comes to life (and is voiced by Seth MacFarlane for most of the movie). A living teddy bear is a great companion for any child but when the boy becomes a man (John Bennett as an adult is played by Mark Wahlberg) and is still close friends with that same bear then there are bound to be some problems. When that bear is a foul-mouthed, drug-smoking, party animal then there may be even more problems. Luckily for John, he has a very understanding girlfriend in the shape of the beautiful Lori (the beautiful Mila Kunis). Unluckily for John, that understanding only lasts for so long while Lori’s patience is tested time and time again. It soon becomes clear that Ted has to move out and John has to try and move forward as a proper adult.
Seth MacFarlane knows comedy. He can create one-liners that have me doubled over with laughter, as a few moments in the Ted script did. Unfortunately, he seems better suited to the rapid pace of a TV episode than he does to themovie format. There’s so much good stuff in Ted but it’s interspersed throughout a lot of so-so material. Here are a few of the main examples that spring to mind. The numerous 80s references are funny but also a very clumsy way of showing people who obviously haven’t let go of childish things. The wit is often sharp and near the knuckle but MacFarlane never quite pushes things as far as you would expect. Then we have the world that is created, a world in which the wish of a young boy is made real and it’s just accepted by everyone (after a very funny moment in which the parents find out and react with shock). You have to wonder why MacFarlane didn’t extrapolate that idea to create a world in which the wish of every child had been brought to life (imagine THAT movie and tell me that you’re not interested) or at least go in the other direction and make Ted a permanent outcast, perhaps even a more dangerous individual to hang about with.
The cast all do very well and play things admirably straight. Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis take the top honours as they have the most interaction with Ted, MacFarlane gets most of the best lines (although the scene featured in the trailer with Wahlberg reeling off a bunch of “white trash” names might just get first place), Giovanni Ribisi plays a creep and has fun with the role, Joel McHale plays a different kind of creep and also has fun with the role, Matt Walsh and Patrick Warburton lend some good support, narration comes from the velvet voicebox of Patrick Stewart and there are a few great cameos that guarantee laughs.
Ted is good, raucous fun. You will have a good time while it’s on and you WILL laugh. You just might not laugh as much as you expected to.
DIRECTOR: SETH MACFARLANE
WRITER: SETH MACFARLANE, ALEC SULKIN, WELLESLEY WILD
STARS: MARK WAHLBERG, MILA KUNIS, SETH MACFARLANE (VOICING TED), JOEL MCHALE, MATT WALSH, GIOVANNI RIBISI, PATRICK WARBURTON
RUNTIME: 106 MINS APPROX