Seth MacFarlane’s crude, rude and funny slice of live-action Family Guy stays subversive until the last act.
An introverted Johnny Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) makes a Christmas wish for his teddy bear to come to life. And it does.
Twenty-five years later, after the media furore dies down and a talking teddy is yesterdays’s news, Ted has grown up to be a drug-taking, hard-drinking foul-mouthed bear, coming between slacker Johnny and his career-minded girlfriend (Mila Kunis).
Overflowing with MacFarlane’s trademark 80’s nostalgia references, a glorious pastiche orchestral soundtrack and some dubious cameo appearances, Ted sells out to a straight Disney-esque ending.
Because it’s a MacFarlane scripted and directed vehicle, all of Ted‘s strengths are its weaknesses. Ted (voiced by MacFarlane himself) is the best and worst of Peter Griffin, Brian the Dog and assorted Family Guy characters. The movie isn’t afraid to do grown-up comedy about a perpetual adolescent, but between the swearing, the drugs, the sex-talk and the bodily functions (hello Adam Sandler’s entire back catalogue and no, that doesn’t entitle you to take a shot at Jack and Jill), and the endless, I mean endless 80’s references, winds up looking like a perpetual adolescent got hold of a big CGI movie budget.
There are some funny set-pieces – Wahlberg and Ted’s comedy punch-up is one – and familiar faces from TV sit-coms feature in a parade of disturbing and disturbed supporting characters. Sir Patrick Stewart’s narration is an unexpected joy.
The cast do well acting to the CGI bear that isn’t there; Wahlberg, Kunis and the supporting cast doing excellent light comedy-drama (material allowing). What isn’t so good are the cameo’s from non-actors Sam Jones (Flash Gordon) and Nora Jones (musician) as themselves. The cameos’ break the fourth wall in the worst possible way, like Ocean’s Thirteen having Julia Roberts play a Julia Roberts lookalike (why yes, Sam Jones is a terrible actor, oh look isn’t that Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis?). While Ted’s Korean neighbour pushes close to a racist incident.
But Ted rattles along well enough as a series of interlinked sketches, with frequent asides just for Airplane-type gags. But it’s central plot, Johnny growing into responsible adulthood with Lori versus the loyalty to his friend does drag like an anchor. Choice: foul-mouthed slacker teddy-bear or Mila Kunis? No contest.
The biggest problem is the last act, where Giovanni Ribisi’s creepy and hilarious toy-stalker triggers a kidnap-and-chase climax. Executed with Family Guy verve and gusto almost to the end, MacFarlane can’t get past a stubborn romantic streak. The movie wants to be abrasive, offensive and occasionally nasty, break taboos and earn it’s R-rating. Then the last act reverts to Hollywood rom-com resolution, the gags thin out and rather than go for the grown up option and undercut the clichés, dumps us right in one for the end-credits. He would never end an episode of Family Guy this way.
MacFarlane’s first movie is okay if lacking the will to be really subversive the way we’d hoped. RC
Director: Seth MacFarlane
Writer: Seth MacFarlane
Running time: 1 hr. 55 min.
Certification: R (US), 15 (UK)
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane, Patrick Warburton, Seth Rogen, Sir Patrick Stewart, Giovanni Ribisi, Joel McHale
Related: The Watch