A cute teddy bear that embraces every disreputable thing you can think of – foul language, drugs, that trashy check-out girl in a supermarket store room. Yup, the contrast between cuddly appearance and sordid behaviour is pretty much the single gag that fantasy comedy Ted rests upon. However, against all odds, this slim concept actually manages to support the film for 106 minutes – thanks also to some relaxed, likeable performances and a script that allows levels of audacity and fanboy silliness to soar.
Ted is the first live-action film from writer-director Seth MacFarlane, who is most famous for creating and voicing cartoon TV series Family Guy and American Dad! Ted in fact feels very much like a non-animated version of MacFarlane’s television work, complete with absurd fantasy cutaways, 80s pop culture references, politically incorrect one-liners and immature fart gags.
This said, the fart gags in Ted actually have a justified place. You see, the film centres on 35 year old John Bennet (Mark Wahlberg), who starts to suspect that his friendship with irresponsible Ted – who John magically wished alive during childhood – is actually holding him back, professionally and personally. In other words he has to grow up and let go of his “Thunder Buddy.” John’s long-time girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis) is naturally encouraging of this attempt at maturity and life progression, but John seems unable to break free of Ted’s bad influence.
As a movie, Ted is about as politically incorrect as they come. Although fans of MacFarlane’s TV work will already be familiar with his fearlessly controversial one-liners, Ted features the kind of no holds barred religious, ethnic and gender slurs you don’t normally see in standard Hollywood fare. And it seems unlikely that the filmmakers would have got away with it if it wasn’t for the fact that the jokes typically come from the mouth of a cheeky but appealing CGI character (voiced by MacFarlane himself).
It also doesn’t hurt that Ted features the comfortable, engaging pairing of Wahlberg and Kunis. Both actors have proven their comedy chops in the past, and here they successfully walk a fine line between coming across like real, relatable people, and scripted creations called upon to deliver physical humour and witty banter in equal measure. Wahlberg and Kunis’s characters are in turn surrounded by caricatures portrayed straight-faced by the likes of Patrick Warburton, Joel McHale and Giovanni Ribisi, as well as a peppering of clever cameos.
Ted is actually worth watching for two scenes alone: an extended house party sequence and a spur-of-the-moment hotel room fight that is so simultaneously inventive and ridiculous that it’s likely to end up on a list of the most entertaining cinema battles of 2012.
This said, Ted undergoes a tonal shift towards its conclusion that isn’t really in keeping with what’s preceded it, and this throws the film a bit off-course. At this point, the movie starts to feel more like the perilous climax of a family film from the 80s and 90s – think Annie or Beethoven – before events wrap up predictably.
In the end, Ted isn’t massively inventive, but it IS consistently entertaining. And despite the brashness of its humour, it manages to never be mean-spirited. Ted is a goofy good time, with much more heart than you’d expect.
Last Updated: August 29, 2012