– Summary –
Director : Seth MacFarlane
Year Of Release 2012
Principal Cast : Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane, Joel McHale, Giovanni Ribisi, Aedin Minks, Patrick Warburton, Sam J Jones, Laura Vandervoot, Jessica Barth, Matt Walsh, Voice of Patrick Stewart.
Approx Running Time : 107 Minutes
Synopsis: When he wishes his plush teddy bear could be his real life best friend forever, a young John Bennett wakes to find his wish granted – “Teddy” comes to life, with an uncouth sense of humor and an increasingly tenuous attachment to John as he grows into a man.
What we think : Infuriatingly, this film is hilarious. I’m a bit hit-and-miss with director Seth MacFarlane’s work (Family Guy and American Dad, among others) but Ted is comedic gold for the most part. A rather dark final act, which sees a creepy Giovanni Ribisi overshadow the otherwise larrakin nature of the story, almost derails the movie, but there’s enough goodwill built up over the preceding hour or so to offset any negatives. MacFarlane’s Teddy is an uncouth, depraved, hedonistic creation, and one which perfectly bounces off Marky Mark’s wide-eyed comedy stylings. A thorough gut-buster, you’d be hard pressed to go past Ted without at least one solid guffaw.
The ultimate talking toy…
As far as gross-out adult comedies go, I’m pleased to say I enjoyed Ted very much. As much as I usually detest the immature comedy oozing from Hollywood’s current “frat pack”, Seth MacFarlane’s Ted will stand alongside fan favorites Family Guy and American Dad as excellent examples of clever, albeit vulgar, humor. Fart jokes, sex jokes and riffs on pop-culture and self-referential wink-wink nudges aside, Ted might seem like a jangle of ideas thrown together higgledy-piggledy, but the end result is nothing short of laugh-out-loud genius. A teddy bear come to life might seem somewhat of a stretch, but the story is clever enough to give that teddy bear a filthy, dirty mind and almost the voice of Brian Griffin. That saves much of this film from becoming a tedious bore – MacFarlane stretches the humor, almost to breaking point in some cases, and most of the time it works, allowing Ted to be more than a simple adult comedy; it’s a film with a message buried deep within it’s soft, cuddly, plush exterior.
When John Bennett (played as an adult by Mark Wahlberg, and as a boy by Bretton Manley) wishes one Christmas that his new present, a plush bear he calls Teddy, would come to life and be his freind forever, little does he realize that that wish will come true. Sure enough, Ted comes to life (and is a CGI creation voiced by director Seth MacFarlane), and the two become inseparable all though childhood. Even as John grows into a man, he lives a somewhat stoner lifestyle alongside his bear buddy as they skate through life – much to the chagrin of Lori (Mila Kunis), an office worker with vastly better job prospects than he has, which is something Lori has problems with. Lori wants John to get over his friendship with Ted, since she feels the living toy is holding John back from his full potential. While he juggles his relationship with Lori, John also must outwit the deranged and somewhat psychopathic stalker he and Ted have picked up – a man named Donny (Giovanni Ribisi) whose obsession with Ted will lead to their friendship being severely tested.
Look, I’m a bit ambivalent about Family Guy. I like the show, and I usually have a giggle while it’s on, but I’ve never found it to be essential television. Same goes for American Dad, I guess. I’ve always been more a Drawn Together fan, which leaves both Family Guy and The Simpsons looking like Dora The Explorer; Seth MacFarlane has always existed on the fringes of my entertainment world, although gradually, the more I hear and see from him, the more I like. I’m okay with dark, often caustic humor (Drawn Together being the most extreme version I’ve seen of this type thus far), so I don’t consider myself to be prudish, but when the humor is there there does need to be a reason for it. There’s little value in being offensively funny just because you can – you should at least have a point to make behind the laughs. MacFarlane falls into the category of comics who brushes genius but often misses the mark in terms of value for money. That said, I really, really liked Ted. I think this is some of MacFarlane’s best work (his first in live-action) and dare I say it, I’d love to see a sequel (although I doubt that’ll happen!): Ted’s a wild mix of crazy existential references, sexual depravity and crude, offensive material which would make your grandmother’s hair curl. It’s fast, it’s funny, it’s well executed by all involved, and there’s enough heart and soul behind the riot of ideas to make this film just work.
The premise of Ted is so simple it’s hilarious in itself. A teddy bear lives with a guy, smoking bongs and “bangin’ chicks”, a hedonistic lifestyle becoming a former “star” thanks to the incredible gift of being brought to life by a wish-upon-a-star moment early in the film. One of the key conceits of this film is that Ted is simply another guy trying to get by in this crazy world – he smokes, leers at hot women, behaves completely inappropriately in almost every social situation, and generally becomes a pain the ass. Because he’s been around for years (although he never “ages” in the way humans do, which is also quite amusing considering he starts life about as tall as young John in the films opening) Ted has picked up many vices along the way, most of which are obnoxious in the extreme, but thanks to canny scripting by MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild, the film never makes us work to like him. Ted’s charming, I guess (although, like many great characters, you’d hate to actually have to live with them!), but he never quite fits in with society – and this never more evident than in his “third wheel” to John and Lori’s relationship.
John and Lori are obviously in love with each other – John’s a car salesman making sod-all on minimum wage, lives in Lori’s flat with Ted, and spends a lot of his time slacking off at the expense of building his relationship, while Lori bemoans the lack of drive John has thanks to Ted’s influence. It’s really a classic “bro’s before ho’s” kinda thing, only Lori isn’t a prostitute. The script makes the brave decision not to make Lori out to be a total bitch, which works in the films’ favor in that Ted isn’t fighting with Lori for John’s attention, he’s just trying to find his place in John’s adult life. Lori doesn’t put down ultimatums that are unreasonable, although towards the climax of the film she is forced to through the actions of John and Ted deciding to go partying with the dude who played Flash Gordon in the classic television series, Sam J Jones (in a terrific – and funny – extended cameo appearance). Both Wahlberg and Kunis have a solid chemistry, even though at times Wahlberg seems a little weaker in the “romantic leading man” department. Wahlberg and Ted also have a terrific chemistry, although having said that, even when Ted isn’t on the screen (and that ain’t too often, let me give you the tip!), the film is still highly entertaining.
If there is any fault with Ted, it’s not the humor or the main plot; rather, it’s the addition of Giovanni Ribisi’s character of Donny, an obsessed nutter who stalks Ted after seeing him on television as a child. The film works dark when Donny’s on screen, and if I was truthful, I don’t think this plot-line added anything to the story at all. In fact, I think this aspect of the film works against the happy-go-lucky rest of the story, and is – in my mind – almost unnecessary. I understand why the addition of a psycho stalker might have been felt to be warranted, after all there are no real Bad Guys in this film’s story, but Ted could have worked without it. The relationship angst between John, Lori and Ted seemed to me to be strong enough to keep things moving along, without the addition of a creepy dude keen on kidnapping a teddy bear. It’s just a little nasty subplot that nearly ruins an otherwise hilarious film.
MacFarlane’s character of Ted is easily the shining light of the film. Using MacFarlane’s fearless ribald humor, Ted lampoons, skewers and shoots daggers through even the most sacred of cows in this movie; subtle in-jokes to MacFarlane characters abound, while there’s some terrific cameo appearances (Sam J Jones aside) to keep you giggling. The effects work on Ted, by Tippett Studio’s, is excellent, with the highly visible central character seeming to really exist within the film frame each time he appears. It’s a testament to both MacFarlane’s use of the camera and the Tippett Studio’s terrific animation that keeps your disbelief suspended – had Ted been a little rough around the digital edges, much of the humor and realism would have fallen apart and people would have “seen the wires”, so to speak. Vocally, MacFarlane only marginally varies his work here from Brian Griffin fom Family Guy, that rich, deep baritone seemingly coming from nowhere inside the tiny, fluffy teddy. His mumbles and asides to camera and himself are equally as hilarious as his pointed human interpretations; it’s through a non-human character that we are often able to see the best and worst of ourselves, and Ted provides that channel this time around.
There’s some truly gob-smackingly poor-taste comedy in Ted. Some might be highly offended – in fact, I’d be surprised if people weren’t by at least one or two things that happen in this film – but it’s never quite as controversial as to be unwatchable. I was guffawing and giggling a lot more than I wasn’t, which is a mark of a truly unique, funny movie; Ted’s ribald script and indifference to cinema convention allow it to breathe when most other films of this genre might slip and slide into Scary Movie-style idiocy. I traditionally don’t rate comedy as highly as most other films, mainly because comedy is so subjective it’s impossible to adequately rate it in the same way as an action film or a romantic flick, but I’m pleased to say that I have no hesitation in giving Ted a good, high score. As a comedy, it’s brilliant. As a film, it’s flawed, sure, but those flaws are vastly outweighed by the laughs you’ll be throwing out at the screen. Ted’s a must-see.