Seth MacFarlane (Director)
1hr 46min, Rated MA
Much talked about despite coming out in tandem with the Dark Knight Rises, Seth Macfarlane’s feature film debut Ted provides for plenty of laughs without any surprises.
In what may be seen as a development in his career, Seth MacFarlane, better known as the voice of Peter Griffen and the creator of Family Guy, has now turned his attentions to the big screen. In doing so, Macfarlane refreshes a familiar rom-com plotline with the addition of the eponymous character, an animated teddy-bear. Having never been particularly inspired by Macfarlane’s previous work, which comprises of namely Family Guy, American Dad and The Cleveland Show, I walked into the film expecting very little. In fact, I’ve found the aforementioned cartoons to be near painful experiences – mind-numbing series based around main characters who simply yell a lot or endure large amounts of pain, indicative of what I see as America’s inability to progress from the belief that slapstick humour is the epitome of the comedy. Despite this, with the film not being an animated production, I managed to dissociate Ted enough from Family Guy in order to give MacFarlane a clean slate and experience the film more open-mindedly.
The film is set in modern day Boston and revolves around the often troublesome ménage à trois that has developed between John Bennet (Mark Wahlberg), girlfriend Lori Collins (Mila Kunis) and Ted (voiced by Seth MacFarlane). Having breathed life into his teddy bear by making a desperate childhood wish that it could talk, John’s life is now split between his careerist girlfriend and his pot-smoking, furry best friend, Ted. What ensues is a struggle of influences and an ultimatum where John must choose between Lori or Ted and the varying lifestyles that accompany each one.
The film dishes up a predictable plot that adheres to the protocol of contemporary American rom-coms. What I refer to here are scenes or devices of plot development which have become so ingrained in the sub-genre that they appear almost as checkpoints through which the film must reluctantly pass. These include the apparently obligatory use of a public declaration of love to resurrect the broken relationship, as well as an epilogue scene which divulges the immediate future of each significant character in the film (a technique used in my knowledge as far back as in the 80s classic Fast Times at Ridgemont High). However, as Ted takes a different enough approach to this hackneyed plotline, as can be seen by the total anticlimax that is John’s singing to Lori at the Norah Jones concert, one can only wonder whether MacFarlane was aiming to satirise the genre or else, what is unfortunately more likely, was simply utilising the little artistic licence he retained whilst following the American rom-com precedent.
Ultimately, the film’s forté is of course its entourage of gags, which thankfully do not rely upon slapstick. Mark Wahlberg does turn out to be reasonably funny; Mila Kunis less so, but still convincing enough to garner some sort of sympathy from the audience as she endures her tumultuous relationship with the unreliable John. However the broad majority of the jokes derive from the bear, who, fully exploiting his detachment from regular society (he is after all a talking teddy bear), determinedly pursues a life of hedonism. Beyond being the centrepiece of the film’s humour, the bear also provides novelty and poses as the only thing that separates Ted from the coma-inducing likes of How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days or Crazy, Stupid Love. On a different note, as the bear looks very natural sidled up next to Mark Wahlberg, either ripping a bong or doing tequila shots with the famous actor, Tippet Studio is to be highly commended for their role in the computer animation wizardry behind Ted, another strength of the film.
Whilst the film is quite clearly devoid of any sort stimulating or challenging substance, it will definitely make you laugh, which is after all its raison d’être.