Seth MacFarlane | 106 mins | Blu-ray | 1.85:1 | USA / English | 15 / R
The first film from Seth MacFarlane, creator of Family Guy and American Dad!, part-time Oscar host and Proms singer (I kid you not), is the story of a boy and his teddy bear. Lonely little John Bennett gets a teddy for Christmas when he’s eight, makes a wish that the bear will come alive, and so it does. It’s sweet and lovely, because it’s a teddy. Then it becomes famous and grows up and turns into a foul-mouthed pot-smoking layabout living with a thirtysomething John (Marky Mark Wahlberg) and his girlfriend (Mila Kunis). But he’s still a loveable bear. Kinda.
If you put together that plot description with “from the creator of Family Guy”, you get a pretty fair idea of what Ted’s like — and whether it’s for you or not. Sadly many people can’t do such simply maths, as evidenced by the swathes of bad reviews on LOVEFiLM, shocked by the film’s content. One moron even sat their little kids down in front of it, thinking it was a cute film about a cute talking bear being cute. Why do some people not research the films they show their kids? Even checking the certificate would’ve revealed it’s a 15 and not suitable for your 6 year old. But I digress.
Family Guy’s stock in trade is two things: non-sequiturs, which Ted replaces with a plot; and an edgy, borderline-offensive (or, to some people, offensive) sense of humour, which Ted retains, and in some cases pushes farther, unrestrained by the demands of US network TV. Personally, I like it, by and large. Some jokes cross the line into distasteful, but that’s par for the course. Some will find it all terribly juvenile. I was going to say you shouldn’t be expecting QI, but then they’ve been known to get sidetracked into some smutty laughs on occasion, so that may not be the best example.
The film’s low point is its plot. It’s stock rom-com territory, in which a happy couple (spoilers!) break up and (spoilers!) get back together, with a climax-providing subplot lifted from Toy Story 2. If you’re looking for an original or thought-provoking story, Ted won’t be the place to find it, though it makes a good fist of telling it. But really, the draw is the talking teddy, and how he relates to the world in a teddy-like fashion. So what if the main story is a rehash? Plenty of comedies do that every year without bothering to add anything original, at least here the reality of what would happen if a teddy magically came to life is considered, and quite nicely handled too.
Without meaning to spoil any laughs, standout segments include a running involvement of the ’80s Flash Gordon film, which long-term readers of this blog will know I love at least as much as John and Ted, which culminates in an amusing trip; a hotel room brawl between John and Ted (if you watch it on Blu-ray, the five-minute Teddy Bear Scuffle featurette is worth a look for how they did this); and a minor array of cameos, from who’s doing the voiceover to someone who turns up twice without a single line of dialogue.
Wahlberg performances swing between excellent (The Departed, I ♥ Huckabees) and awful (The Happening, Max Payne), seemingly at random, but here he’s closer to the former. MacFarlane voices Ted (as well as directing, co-writing and co-producing), which years of experience have left him very good at, even if he has to lampshade the fact he does sound rather like Peter Griffin. Among the rest of the cast, Mila Kunis is kinda unremarkable and kinda endearing, but either way surely beloved by teenage boys; Giovanni Ribisi turns up as a creepy loner (what else is new); and Patrick Warburton plays The Part Patrick Warburton Plays (what else is new).
(Incidentally, there’s also an unrated version of Ted, which is so shocking that in the UK we gave it a… 15. It’s about six minutes longer and includes some alternate material as well as extensions. I went with the theatrical version because, well, I did. As ever, there’s a full comparison here, or a simple list on IMDb if you prefer. For the dedicated, the Blu-ray also includes 15 minutes of deleted scenes and 10 minutes of alternate takes, but I don’t know if there’s any overlap between that material and the extended version.)
Ted is pretty much a walking talking definition of “not for everyone” — which is fine. If you like Family Guy, it’s definitely one to try (LOVEFiLM has plenty of “I love Family Guy but hated this grrr!” reviews too); if you dislike Family Guy, probably one to avoid; if you’ve never seen Family Guy, what can I say, that’s the standard reviewer’s barometer here. It is rude, is crude, and is mostly very funny. But, whatever you decide, don’t leave the kids with the movie about the talking teddy.
Ted joins the Sky Movies Premiere line-up today at 4:25pm, is on again at 8pm, and several times daily thereafter, as well as on all their on-demand services and whatnot.