Given the nature of Family Guy and its various spin-offs, you wouldn’t expect the directorial debut of Seth Macfarlane – the man behind the creation and voices of the likes of Peter Griffin and Stewie - to be a serious drama about families and hidden secrets. Which is good because it’s not. Ted takes the foul-mouthed and adult tinged humour that Macfarlane has made his trademark and transferred it to the big screen. Those who detest Family Guy will not be converted but fans will surely lap up a film that – whilst sometimes flawed – is rude, crude and often very funny.
Young John Bennett is a lonely child. He’s so lonely that – one Christmas Eve – he wishes that his teddy bear was alive. Given that the most powerful thing in the world – apart from an Apache Helicopter – is a child’s wish, ‘Ted’ magically comes to life. Cut to the present day. John (Mark Wahlberg) is scraping a living whilst Ted (voiced by Macfarlane) is content to sit at home getting stoned out his furry brain, years after his status as a minor celebrity has faded. John’s girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis, a Macfarlane alumni as she’s the voice of Meg in Family Guy) is tolerant of Ted but wishes John would grow up and move on with his life. At first John seems to be doing just that, with Ted moving out and getting a job. But a series of events – involving a freaky toy collector, some hooker faeces and Flash Gordon – mean that John may lose Lori forever with his friendship to Ted stretched to breaking point.
Some of the early humour in the film is predicated on the ‘hey look, it’s a teddy bear but he’s talking about sex, using drugs and swearing!’ But, to the film’s credit, once this novelty factor has worn off it still manages to be pretty funny with Macfarlane sometimes channelling the witty dialogue of early Kevin Smith films. He has a good ear for the type of stuff that stoned males and best mates will blabber on about and manages to combine the general inanity and childishness with the odd pithy and profound comment. As Ted he also manages to make a surprisingly well-rounded character who you actually take as a person as opposed to freaky, talking toy (oh, and he does sound a lot like Peter Griffin, something that the film takes great delight in mentioning).
Those who detest Family Guy will not be converted but fans will surely lap up a film that – whilst sometimes flawed – is rude, crude and often very funny.
Wahlberg shows some fine comic talent, managing to be a sympathetic (and quite believable) idiot man-boy whilst Kunis is great at being a fleshed out character as opposed to a love interest that wavers between gooey girlfriend and shrill harpy. And props to Giovanni Ribisi who does the quintessential ‘creepy bastard’ performance with some – frankly disturbing – dancing.
As expected the film is also full of references to pop culture, with long swathes dedicated to the 80s version of Flash Gordon (with Sam Jones, the little seen star of the 80s sci-fi extravaganza, making a crucial cameo in proceedings) and it should prove fun for nerds, geeks and fans of a certain ilk. Many of the best moments in the film are just when the characters are sitting around and riffing on numerous subjects, though there are number of well-staged slapstick style set pieces including a great hotel fight involving Ted. Some of the plot – especially, despite his great performance, that surrounding Ribisi’s character – seems awkward and tacked and makes it so that the film does slightly run of steam in its last third.
But when it works, Macfarlane’s debut is exactly what you’d expect it to be and a fine adult comedy from the US. But, as good as he is at the combination of the scatological and the profound, it will be interesting to see if Macfarlane can spread his wings farther on future projects
Ted is released by Universal and is out in cinemas now
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