Ted is Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane’s debut feature film co-written with FG writer Alec Sulkin. It stars Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis and MacFarlane himself in the eponymous role.
It’s Christmastime, and Patrick Stewart narrates to us the story of a boy called John Bennett living in lower middle class suburbia. John isn’t the most popular kid on the street, with the bullies refusing to be seen beaingt him up and even the victims telling him to get lost. One night, he wishes that his teddy bear could come to life so they can be best friends forever – a wish which, the next morning, comes true much to his parent’s horror. The main focus of Ted is the story of the grown up John (Mark Wahlberg) and his struggle to balance a committed relationship to Lori (Mila Kunis) and his now foul mouthed, pot-smoking, slacker best friend Ted (Seth MacFarlane). There are threats to John’s static equilibrium from both sides – his girlfriend’s boss is a seedy womanizer and Ted has some fans of his own.
The main trouble I had with Ted was, predominantly due to the director’s previous work, it was difficult to ascertain when he was trying to be funny and when he was trying to be sincere. For example, I interpreted a scene in which the bear beats up his best friend to be some kind of serious emotional outburst, but the vivacious laughter in the cinema seemed to say otherwise. Though there are a sufficient number of memorable and funny moments, the film itself leaves much to be desired; Ted feels more like a TV movie with a tight aspect ratio, overlit sets and editing that’s too fast to allow for pacing between jokes, or even to emotionally engage with the plot. Wahlberg turns in a performance that is far more favourable than some of his other work (as spoofed, incidentally, in Family Guy) whilst other characters quickly become predictable and difficult to care about, except for Giovanni Ribisi who constantly teeters between a straight performance and flat-out ridiculous one to the point where I’m still unsure how to react to his character, a problem I can’t help but feel could’ve been fixed in the writing stage. Plus, for all Macfarlane’s enamourment with the 80s era of fantasy movies Ted just reminded me how brilliantly entertaining those movies are on their own, rather than adding anything to the actual film other than an offhand reference.
This will surely not be the last we see of MacFarlane, and for a debut this is a decent effort that feels disappointing in comparison to his other achievements. Nonetheless, there is much to be enjoyed in Ted for fans of slacker or un-PC comedies and, of course, Family Guy that I seem to be missing out on.
TL;DR: I’ll s’bear you the grizzly details, it’s not furry good.