Seth MacFarlane is the marmite of the comedy world, segregating audiences between a tidal wave of love and loathe. I am both a fan of ‘Family Guy’ and ‘American Dad’ but I just could not bring myself to enjoy Ted as much as was intended.
The plot centres on man child John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg), who as a boy, wished that his toy teddy bear would come to life and be his best friend forever. He makes the right wish on the right night and Ted springs to life comforting him on thunder filled nights. Fast forward a good few years, bypassing a blip of 15 minutes of fame for the bear that can speak and it seems that Ted is everything deplorable in a human being deposited into the sweet, enchanting exterior of a toy bear.
Perhaps this is the fundamental flaw with the character of Ted. He is simply unlikeable. He drinks, does copious amounts of drugs (he settles on ‘Mind rape’ after debating ‘Gorilla Panic’ and ‘This is permanent’), uses vegetables to penetrate hookers, is unemployed and throws the F bomb around at an explosive rate. Ted is essentially a 15 year old, responsibility free Peter Griffin, and not just in terms of the voice which is UNMISTAKEABLY Griffin, but the demeanour, the behaviour and the hostility. Ted’s sweet features and sentimental back-story don’t do much to deter us from the fact that is a rather repugnant character. Perhaps it is simply that I’ve outgrown McFarlane’s humour, or perhaps it’s that ‘Ted’ is too much like Griffin to be appreciated as a truly unique, one off character.
There is a certain audience that would gravitate to Ted. This would be the same audience that appreciates Stifler or Mary styling her hair with ‘hair gel’. It’s not an immature or unrefined audience. Most of us have a space or two in our bellies for a bit of toilet humour, but when the entire character is constructed around such gags with little to no redeeming qualities, the character becomes hard to stomach. The character of Ted is 98% jokes with only a 20-30% laughter success rate. In fact much of the humour was generated by other characters, rather than Ted himself, and he worked best with the odd quip or one liner, rather than any lengthy conversational exchange.
John and Ted’s friendship is one of debauchery, co-dependency and fun. Ted is John’s security blanket from his childhood but also a representation of simpler, happier times. Their friendship is dysfunctional but real and clearly of much importance and value to both. Two may be company but three is most definitely a crowd, enter John’s girlfriend Lori (panther like Mila Kunis), who wishes for a more mature relationship with John which is hindered by Ted’s predominance in John’s life. Whilst John dithers between his future with his girlfriend and the past cultivated between himself and Ted, father and son duo Donny and Robert would very much appreciate taking Ted off of his hands!
Ted is a mixture of humour and fantasy but don’t be fooled, this is primarily a romantic comedy with a wise cracking talking teddy bear thrown in.
The crux of Ted seems to be a man’s choice between childhood and manhood. Ted represents John’s ties to his former self and Lori represents the potential of his adult future. But does he really have to lose one to have the other? Or can a man’s inner child survive alongside his enlightened mature self? This is the classic ‘bros before hoes’ tale; should John choose Ted or Lori? His best bud or the love of his life? Does he have to choose at all?
Some of the jokes are pure and simple hilarity, as if ‘Family Guy’ animations were transported into the real world. There were moments that made me explode with demonic laughter, but for the most part the film falls flat and fails to live up to its immense potential. It could be that McFarlane has been heavily censored or perhaps it was his intention to deviate slightly from the controversial foundations of ‘Family Guy’ to breach a wider audience. Either way, something fundamental is missing and heavy segments of ‘Ted’ simply sag.
Mark, Seth and Mila fulfil what’s required of them, but the sneaky scene stealers are the bit parts. I can’t help but think that if their roles were elevated, the film might have drawn a few more laughs from me. Giovanni Ribisi is creepier than a creeky staircase as crazed fan-boy father Donny whilst his Susan Boyle lookalike son Robert portrayed by Aedin Mincks is the Veruca Salt of this story; spoilt and deplorable. There is a lengthy cameo appearance from ‘Flash Gordon’ front man Sam J. Jones and a cameo from Norah Jones that made little to no sense to me whatsoever. But for me the hugest accolade belongs to Patrick Warburton who famously voices Joe Swanson of ‘Family Guy’ as the undecided homosexual who eventually comes out with a mild mannered Ryan Reynolds.
Don’t get me wrong; parts of ‘Ted’ will have you cradling your split sides in tickled agony, but far too much of it falls flat, and if we take out the talking teddy bear, we simply have a hiccough between the love story of Mark and Mila, and therefore it essentially feels a little lazy.