With a gung-ho Mark Wahlberg by his side, Seth MacFarlane successfully adapts his rapid fire pop culture comedy shtick to the big screen with the crude yet spirited Ted.
MacFarlane of course is known as the creator of Family Guy and American Dad (among others), animated sitcoms that have amassed a loyal fanbase. This critic is not one of those fans.
To say that Ted will appeal to fans of MacFarlane’s TV work is a no brainer, since essentially this is a live action version of a Family Guy episode. Yet haters and novices alike will be surprised with what’s on offer here, for this is MacFarlane at his gag-centric best yet without the topical/political nonsense that makes his TV work such a drag.
The premise of the film is more in tune with a Disney movie, with lonely young Boston kid John Bennett making a wish that his teddy bear would come to life. Lo and behold his wish comes true, with Ted becoming a “child” celebrity who like other child celebrities gets old, turns to drugs and eventually becomes a nobody.
One thing that hasn’t changed is his lifelong friendship with John (Mark Wahlberg). That bond is put to the test when John’s ever patient girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis) urges him to embrace adulthood and all of its responsibilities, not an easy task when your downtime is spent getting high, talking shit and watching repeats of Flash Gordon with a teddy bear.
A major reason why Ted works is that the character itself is such a well composited creation. With Trippett Studios (they behind Jurassic Park and Return of the Jedi) providing computer animation, and MacFarlane the motion capture movements and that Peter Griffin voice (the main character from Family Guy, for those not in the know) Ted instantly becomes a character that’s easy to accept despite the fact that he is a bong smoking, prostitute banging teddy bear. Imagine a Boston Irish Seth Rogen meshed with E.T. (but not as fuzzy) and you’ll get the picture.
The best part of Ted is Mark Wahlberg. Not content in portraying the straight man, Wahlberg once again proves he really has a thing for comedy as seen in the underrated buddy cop movie The Other Guys and all the way back to his two-man show with John C. Reilly in Boogie Nights, taking to McFarlane’s brand of humour with gusto while bringing that authentic Boston guys-guy vibe to his role.
Ted is a film that benefits and suffers from the fact that it is a Seth McFarlane joint through and through, with the multi-talented comedian also handling directing and co-writing duties. While McFarlane’s knack for writing a good gag involving 1980s pop culture will make those who understand these references laugh hilariously, the uninitiated might find MacFarlane’s constant cutaways to restaged movie scenes and other distractions to be annoying at best.
Yet MacFarlane has succeeded where fellow TV provocateurs turned film stars Ricky Gervais and Sacha Baron Cohen have failed, by removing the prejudice from his prejudicial comedy. While Gervais was busy trashing Christianity in The Invention of Lying and Cohen criticizing American policy in The Dictator, MacFarlane (who usually does both) focuses solely on his characters, their relationships and how to make his audience laugh with crude yet enthusiastic and un-slanted comedy.
Granted, MacFarlane’s constant repetition of his shtick does prove him to be a one trick pony (it would be interesting to see how he will approach his next film). However as far as that shtick goes, Ted is an entertaining film sure to please MacFarlane’s fans and may even win over a few detractors as well. This review is proof of that.