While I am quite sure it is entirely coincidental, comic connoisseurs will detect more than a passing resemblance between Seth MacFarlane’s directorial debut and Jamie Smart’s supremely brilliant comic Bear which ran between 2003 and 2006 – archives of which can still be found at www.bearfoo.com
Both chart the adventures of a foul-mouthed teddy and his owner, while unfortunately only the latter features the charming antics of a wildly homicidal blue cat named Looshkin. And if there’s one thing Ted needs, it’s a little more charm (and probably a homicidal blue cat).
Comparisons will also inevitably be made with MacFarlane’s most successful effort, Family Guy and if you like that, you’ll find nothing to dislike here, Ted is the equivalent of a live-action feature length episode full of all the familiar tropes: gross-out humour, off-look skits, pop-culture references and a few gems plucked from the zeitgeist to ensure that the script will date poorly. And that’s not a bad thing.
If you’re a fan of MacFarlane’s humour, this offering is a no-brainer. It’s got a script that zips along and where one joke misses, another is along shortly after that might hit. If you’re not, there’s still something to recommend – when MacFarlane isn’t reverting to type there’s a good deal of the funny, despite an all-pervading feeling that he’s trying too hard.
Ted is the story of the titular cuddly toy, a stuffed plaything imbued with a soul following an innocent wish by his owner John (played in later life by Mark Wahlberg). Ted initially enjoys some notoriety and his star briefly burns bright before burning out and the film picks up with John about to turn 35 with Ted still sharing his apartment. John’s life chiefly consists of smoking weed and watching TV with his best friend much to the chagrin of his girlfriend, Lori (Mila Kunis). It’s time to grow up and that means Ted’s got to go.
Aside from the steady stream of profanity-leaden insults and sarcastic quips, one of the film’s biggest strengths is also one of its weaknesses. In another script, Kunis’ character would at the very least be an obvious obstacle for our heroes to overcome and at most, the primary antagonist. Here she’s not, her request for Ted to move out is entirely understandable, born of the potential she sees in John and a wish to take their relationship to the next level. It’s clear Lori doesn’t want to come between her boyfriend and his best friend but she’s got to, so they can both move on with their lives. Unfortunately the nature of her character means that MacFarlane has to find the story’s stakes elsewhere and the result is a cheesy caricature from Giovanni Ribisi as an obsessed father determined to steal Ted for his own son.
This villainous role is a truly awkward plot device that tries to provide some impetus in the final act but adds little. Although the script tries, it spends so much time having fun elsewhere (Flash Gordon fans, this one is definitely for you), any attempt to add a little heart feels like an afterthought, just for the sake of rounding out the product. It’s almost as if everyone decided that the central conceit was good enough to hold an audience without bothering to check if it actually was.
As it is, Ted shows promise, certainly a cut above your average beer-and-pizza movie, but ultimately not worth watching more than once (a bit like your average Family Guy episode, really).