Seth MacFarlane makes his first venture into feature film territory with Ted, the story of a friendless young boys wish for his teddy bear to come to life. MacFarlane made his name in animated adult comedy with the likes of Family Guy, American Dad and, to a lesser extent, The Cleveland Show. But has his jump to live action been worth the wait?
It’s Christmas time, and John Bennett eagerly rips open all of his gifts. One that really takes his attention is a stuffed bear, which he lovingly names ‘Teddy’. A few nights later, John wishes that Teddy could talk, so they can be best friends forever. Sure enough, Johnny wakes the next day to find that Teddy is a real-life, walking talking teddy bear.
Time passes, and the pair grow up together, and John (Mark Wahlberg) eventually finds love in the form of Lori (Mila Kunis). After four years together, Lori wants more maturity from John: which means getting rid of Ted, who over the years has become a pot smoking, foul mouthed and extremely inappropriate figure. Ultimately, John must decide who he wants to keep in his life: the love of his life, or his best friend.
The narrative arc is unoriginality at it’s finest: you’ve seen the outcome and pivotal plot points a million times before, and you’re bound to see them again. What’s worse, if you remove the bear (or simply substitute it for pretty much anything else) this is a straghtforward rom-com.
The character of Ted doesn’t offend, impress or amuse unless your idea of humour is watching a CGI bear take a hit from a bong. The dialogue doesn’t offer anything smarter either, with jokes frequently resorting to mocking serious illnesses. It’s a missed opportunity, as MacFarlane pushed the boundaries of humour on a regular basis with the content of his TV shows, but here it’s undeniably tame. Wahlberg has proven he is capable of comedy with his performance in The Other Guys, and I do have to give him credit here for doing the best with what he had. Mila Kunis, voice of Meg Griffin in Family Guy, grates as John’s girlfriend, and their relationship hardly came across as worth saving in the first place. Sam Jones of Flash Gordon fame makes a welcome cameo and quite possibly is the only reason to watch this; the party scene where he’s introduced is is far and away the standout sequence of the entire feature whereas Patrick Warburton (another Family Guy regular), Joel McHale and Giovanni Ribisi all fail to make an impact in their supporting roles.
When it’s not trying so desperately hard to be funny, Ted actually does succeed in being heartfelt. The scenes between Wahlberg and Ted or Marky Mark and Kunis come so close to invoking emotion, but they are quickly followed up with either a fart joke or bad language that any momentum built is instantly lost.
Ted is a difficult one to recommend. When I first saw the trailer, I predicted that the overall concept would become tiresome after 5 minutes. This is exactly the case. I wanted to like it: 2012 has been a bad year for comedies, and Ted seemed like the shining light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately, it simply was a freight train coming the other way. Ted himself sums up my thoughts whilst being interviewed early into the runtime with the words –
“I thought you’d be funnier.”