Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Seth McFarlane
Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Seth McFarlane, Mila Kunis, Patrick Warburton, Giovanni Ribisi, Jessica Barth, Bill Smitrovich, Joel McHale, Matt Walsh, Aedin Mincks, Sam J Jones, Norah Jones, Patrick Stewart, Tom Skerritt, Bretton Manley, Ryan Reynolds.
Ted is the debut live action feature film from Seth McFarlane, the creator of the animated Family Guy and American Dad series, and the film is full of his usual gross out, subversive brand of humour. He brings much of that same edgy quality to this film.
At its core Ted is about the life-long friendship between a boy and his teddy bear. But here Ted is not your average cute and cuddly toy. Rather he is a profanity-spewing, bong smoking, politically incorrect, hard-partying and horny teddy bear that was magically brought to life as a result of a childhood wish. The idea of the life long friendship between a man-child and his teddy bear seems like a one-joke film, but McFarlane throws in plenty of crude humour and pop cultural references that add spark.
Ted is the only real friend John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) has ever had. John was a lonely and bullied kid who found a friend in Ted when he was given the toy as a Christmas present. When he came alive Ted had a brief brush with fame, travelling the talk show circuit. But the novelty soon wore off, and Ted faded into obscurity, “like Corey Feldman”. Ted became an important part of John’s life and the two shared a house.
Two decades later, John is still something of a man-child, stuck in a dead end job with a car rental company, and still living with the sassy Ted (voiced by McFarlane himself). He is also in a relationship with Lori (Mila Kunis, from Family Guy and That 70s Show, etc), who, after four years, grows tired of his juvenile behaviour and lack of ambition. And most of all, she has grown tired of his friendship with his “thunder buddy” Ted. She gives him an ultimatum – either Ted goes or she does!
The film follows the template of the boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-tries-to-win-back-girl formula, and is surprisingly enjoyable for the most part. But much of the humour is hit and miss, and McFarlane occasionally misjudges the tone of the film. There is plenty of politically incorrect humour here, as McFarlane and his co-writers Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild deliver up a barrage of toilet humour, scatological references, drugs, casual profanity and pop cultural references. There is something here to offend just about everyone. But there are several flat spots throughout that misfire. But Ted is also about relationships, which gives the film some emotional substance and tempers the crude humour.
However, there are also some unnecessary subplots and characters that could have been cut from the film without sacrificing its main ideas – for example Patrick Warburton is wasted in a thankless role as one of John’s work colleagues. Giovanni Ribisi brings his familiar weirdo twitchy persona to his role as an obsessive stalker who kidnaps Ted for the pleasure of his equally scary son, a subplot that takes the film into dark and disturbing territory.
Mark Wahlberg is surprisingly good in a comic role and demonstrates a light touch as the adult John, yet another movie character seemingly stuck in arrested development. The chemistry between Wahlberg and the trash talking Ted is one of the film’s strengths. The highlight of the film is the all-in no-holds-barred fight between John and Ted in a hotel room. The motion capture technology that brings Ted to life is excellent and the animated bear is superbly integrated into the live action.
One of the trademarks of Family Guy was the array of cameos from celebrities who seem willing to take the mickey out of themselves. That continues here with appearances from the likes of Norah Jones, an uncredited Ryan Reynolds, a bored-looking Tom Skerritt, and even Patrick Stewart, who narrates the thing in his unmistakably rich tones. Sam Jones, the star of the camp 80s cult classic Flash Gordon also appears and seems to be having fun both sending up his image and lampooning the film that made his name.
Ted may be uneven and inconsistent in tone, but fans of McFarlane’s sense of humour and his long running animated series will find much to enjoy here.