July 25, 2012 1 Comment
When a lonely young boy’s wish comes true, and he wakes up to find his loyal teddy bear alive and kicking, John Bennett’s (Mark Wahlberg) life is changed forever. As Ted (Seth MacFarlane) embarks on a career in showbiz, the world’s media smitten by the bear’s wholesome charms, the two develop an indestructible bond, dubbing themselves Thunder Buddies. As the years pass and his celebrity fades, however, Ted turns to drink and drugs, effectively casting himself as a barrier between John and the adult world. Forced to find a flat and job of his own by John’s girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis), he finds himself alone and unprotected in a dog-eat-bear world.
Initially touted as a new television series — to be Seth MacFarlane’s fourth after Family Guy, American Dad! and The Cleveland Show — Ted was ultimately reimagined to work as a lone feature film instead. As such, it bears (geddit?) many of the hallmarks of its syndicated siblings, tying a string of hit-and-miss gags together with a scattering of absurdist sub-plots, as the human characters (played by many returning voices) are quickly sidelined to make room for the latest gimmick on the block.
Rather than focus on a psychopathic talking baby, an effeminate extraterrestrial or, er, whatever they use on The Cleveland Show, Ted centres on an enchanted teddy bear who, like many a young celebrity before him, falls foul of excess. There is almost enough mileage to be rung out of the character — essentially Peter Griffin in teddy form, as remarked upon by a nameless partygoer — and much of Ted’s origin lends itself perfectly to MacFarlane’s comedic sensibilities, brilliantly narrated as these scenes are by Patrick Stewart.
But it’s not just Ted who will put a smile on your face, as the usual flashbacks, cameos and fight sequences play out with verve in the relative novelty of the live action format. Although cursed with underwritten characters — Mark Wahlberg plays earnest Bostonian schmuck while Mila Kunis practically reprises her role as Meg from Family Guy, albeit with a new name and the actress’ own good looks — their natural aptitude for physical comedy ensures that they never fail to at the very least amuse.
Unfortunately, Ted does little to improve on the inconsistencies of its sister shows or truly embrace the new medium. Unlike South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut — or even The Simpsons Movie — Ted never feels like a revitalisation of a format flagging in its advanced years. Only as funny as an average episode of either television series (the less said about The Cleveland Show the better), the film feels like little more than a footnote to MacFarlane’s flagship properties. Although it’s still preferable to another half-hour television series, and more than justifies the price of admission (a cocaine-fuelled party is a particular highlight), Ted is not quite the step-up in standards that it needed to be.
Crass, crude and characteristically fearless, this is Seth MacFarlane at his most familiar, if inconsistent. While a strangely sentimental streak goes some way to offset the flippant humour and jarring asides, too little time and energy is spent on the characters, the plot and the big picture to truly engage as a piece of feature filmmaking in its own right.