When Seth MacFarlane announced that he would be making his first feature film, there could have been legitimate fears that the whole thing would end up as a protracted Family Guy episode, complete with cutaway jokes and self-referencing, and whilst there are some annoying cases of the latter, it is a relief that the prolific cartoonist has, for the most part, managed to separate the worlds of television and film and craft a promising first effort at movie-making. Ted has a genuine storyline that makes sense and is the main focus throughout the film’s runtime, even if some of the inevitable gross-out gags outshine even MacFarlane’s most vomit-inducing Family Guy moments.
Ted (voiced by MacFarlane), as you would expect from the title, tells the tale of a teddy bear, brought to life by a child’s wish. After some years of fame he is eventually forgotten by pretty much everyone barring the child, who has now grown into Mark Wahlberg. Together they get stoned and neither of the pair is going anywhere fast, even though Johnny (Wahlberg) is in a relationship with the high-flying Lori (Mila Kunis). It is worth noting at this point just how convincing the relationship between the boy and his toy is, helped enormously by the fantastic effects work done on Ted. Everything about him is convincing, from his facial expressions to his slightly waddling animations to his fur. Never does it feel like you’re watching a CG creation, which also makes the logic of the whole thing far easier to swallow.
Ted is also a very funny character, even after you get over the novelty of a stuffed animal swearing, and Mark Wahlberg is also pretty good at comedy meaning there are a variety of quotable lines, MacFarlane again balancing physical laughs and genuinely witty gags. However, you do get the feeling that it could have been slightly funnier, and there were some long pauses where I found myself with a rather blank expression. It could be argued that the script actually peaks at the very start, with a hilarious speech by Patrick Stewart’s narrator, although this would discount the utterly wonderful fight scene. MacFarlane has proven already that he can do funny action, and the entire sequence is just fantastic.
However, some gags do fall really flat, especially when Ted references Peter Griffin or the other occasional Family Guy references which completely pulled me out of the world of the film and there are a series of slightly baffling celebrity cameos which, whilst nicely self-deprecating, don’t seem to add anything to the movie. There is also, perhaps inevitably, a mean streak a mile wide as Ted encompasses rather undisguised racism, homophobia and sexism, although the hints of misogyny are far less pronounced than Family Guy with Lori given an actually sympathetic role, rather than being a nagging weight (see The Hangover). Some of the funniest lines are slightly uncomfortable as well, with a series of jokes aimed at the weight of a child.
The child in question is the son of the film’s ‘villain’, played to actually menacing effect by a creepy Giovanni Ribisi, whose involvement adds an extra 20 minutes to the end after the key conflict is resolved. It does feel slightly superfluous, but it also adds a proper sense of conclusion to proceedings. Overall, Ted is a better film than I was expecting, and a sign that MacFarlane could easily go on to make some very good comedy cinema but I was left slightly wanting for a greater supply of belly laughs.
Writer/Director: Seth MacFarlane
Stars: Seth MacFarlane, Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis
Runtime: 106 mins