Director: Seth MacFarlane
Starring: Seth MacFarlane, Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Giovanni Ribisi and Joel McHale
The plot of Ted is a rather simple one. A young boy wishes his teddy bear could really talk on Christmas Day and finds his dreams realized. Over the years, Ted, becomes a famous figure however as his creator and best friend, John (Played by Mark Wahlberg) reaches the age of 35, Ted finds his fame gone and his days spent watching Flash Gordon and taking drugs. When John’s girlfriend Lori (Played by Mila Kunis) begins to grow weary of John’s devotion to his teddy bear and refusal to grow up, he is forced to choose between his thunder buddy and the girl of his dreams.
The man child bro-mance/romance movie has become a staple of U.S. mainstream comedy following the late naughties emergence of Judd Apatow. It is the fact that this film operates within such a story that is one of the more disappointing elements of Ted. For a concept such as this, in the hands of somebody as intelligent and inventive as this, it may be a surprise and disappointment for some, that on a story front, Ted is surprisingly predictable, cliched and straight faced. While Family Guy will occasionally reference and play with the conventions of television, MacFarlane does not do the same with film and instead seemingly embraces them. As somebody whose comedy has up until now been contained in twenty minute segments, there is the feeling that some of his comedy and spirit has been lost in the translation. A frequent criticism of Family Guy is that you remember the jokes, not the story, as episodes will commonly journey into Monty Python-esque tangents, with overly long sequences and extended jokes, something that you can get away with in a twenty minute cartoon. However in the transition from that into a hour and forty minute, live action feature, the obligation to have three acts, an antagonist and conflict seems to weigh down, dilute and even flat out eradicate some of MacFarlane’s humour and crazy, anarchic spirit. The finest and most memorable moments of Ted, are the ones that have nothing to do with the plot.
The character of Ted himself (voiced by MacFarlane) is surprisingly well realized visually. The motion capture technology previously associated with blockbusters such as Avatar and Rise of the Planet of the Apes, is used here to convincingly bring to life a walking, talking teddy bear. Of course the fact that as in Family Guy, MacFarlane’s world and characters so quickly and easily embrace such absurdities, makes it easier for the audience to as well. However the whole idea of a film title being a short name, and that name referencing a CG creation which is presented in a ruder way than it has been in previous iterations is not as creative or as original as some would have you believe...remember Paul?
However the character of Ted is one that unlike Paul, to both this film’s credit and fault, is one that I would be more willing to explore once more in either another film, or preferably in the T.V. format, with which MacFarlane is currently more versed. However while for the reasons previously stated this is very much a debut effort from MacFarlane, there are enough moments in this film that suggest MacFarlane could be a cinematic comedic force to be reckoned with in the future. A staple of MacFarlane’s humour has been pop culture references and digs at celebrities. In this film some of those references are very funny (Such as the ones to Chris Brown and Mel Gibson which are more subtle than you would expect...the Mel Gibson one went completely over my audience’s head) however there are others which are incredibly lazy and feel like something any teenager on a social media site could write (For example, the Katy Perry “joke”) Also one particular celebrity joke just makes no sense whatsoever, however, neither does a talking bear so I’ll let it go. There are also moments where this film feels like it is making controversial statements just for the sake of being controversial, with the two 9/11 references and the Parkinson’s comment also seeming lazy and there for the sake of it.
As far as the performances go, Mark Wahlberg continues to be a likable screen presence and gets away with playing it straight in a lovable, goofy, knowing manner. Mila Kunis is perfectly fine in her role, however she is easily given the film’s most thankless task. She is given nothing comedic to play with and instead appears to be everything she said she didn’t want her character to be. MacFarlane voices Ted well and the script makes a great reference to how similar the titular character sounds to Peter Griffin of Family Guy. Joel McHale (Of Community fame) gives one of the film’s better performances as Lori’s slimy boss, with his pretentious personality (Highlighted by a guided tour of his house that he gives to the character of John) being one of the film’s comedic highlights. My favourite performance however, comes from Giovanni Ribisi. Ribisi is slowly but surely becoming one of my favourite actors in the business as he has a genuine chameleonic quality with his performances in the three films I have seen him in (Avatar, Contraband and Ted) being vastly different from one another. As Ted’s creepy super-fan with questionable parenting skills, Ribisi steals every scene he is in and I would love to have seen his character and story developed beyond what it was, something thrown in the third act to provide conflict and a big finish.
MacFarlane directs the film surprisingly well, with him getting rather visually inventive in a party scene. However this film is never as consistently crazy or as funny as I wanted and expected. There are less laughs in one hour and forty minutes of this than there are in a great twenty minute episode of Family Guy. However MacFarlane infuses the film with enough Eighties references (That even somebody like me not alive in the decade can appreciate due to the large majority of them being film based) a surprising presence of heart and keeps the film moving at a fast enough pace, captained by sure handed performances and at least one joke every five or so minutes that will at least get a smile out of you.
By Movie Parliament Prime Minister
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