2 August 2012

Movie Review: Ted


2012, 106mins, 15
Director: Seth MacFarlane 
Writer (s): Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, Wellesley Wild 
Cast includes: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Joel McHale, Matt Walsh, Seth MacFarlane, Giovanni Ribisi
UK Release Date: 1st August 2012

 It’s actually weird to think that “Ted” represents Seth MacFarlane’s motion picture debut, the man has after all been a TV behemoth for almost 15-years. His most famed export “Family Guy” amused me during its early years, but later seasons left me cold. Somewhere along the line MacFarlane forgot that controversial jokes involved more than brazenly shouting politically incorrect things at the viewership, leaving little touches like wit and invention by the wayside. “Ted” definitely represents the most I’ve laughed at a MacFarlane project for a long time, although some of the coasting that has plagued his current TV output does reoccur nastily in spots. It’s not the giggles that save “Ted”; instead it’s the oddly honest and sweet heartbeat the film boasts. MacFarlane has laced “Ted” with an unexpected maturity, at least as far as movies with multiple fart gags go.

During his childhood John (Mark Wahlberg) was not the most popular of kids. After receiving a large plush teddy bear for Christmas, John wishes the toy to life, the result Ted (voiced by MacFarlane) becoming the buddy he’s always desired. During the 80s Ted was a media sensation, but things have since dried up, John working in an average job whilst Ted slums it on the couch, smoking weed and goofing off to old movies. Still, he and John remain firm friends, much to the bemusement of John’s girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis). Lori is sweet, intelligent and only wants what’s best for her man, Ted’s childish behaviour seemingly holding him back. She thus convinces the pair to forgo living together, but the bonds of their friendship prove too strong for a mere relocation.

“Ted” is a humorous flick, although maybe not to the extreme extent promised by its ace trailer. MacFarlane dials back the non-sequiturs and focuses on making a film that deals in the business of comic set-pieces, verbal jousting and punch lines. Not everything lands (I counted two misplaced 9/11 jokes), but when “Ted” works it is admittedly very funny; Lewd, crude and consistently lowbrow, but still funny. MacFarlane seems less interested in starting a fistfight with the establishment (something I feel he’s never actually been that good at, apex “The Simpsons and “South Park” trumps him every time), rather he focuses on mining his flavoursome concept for raw, hard laughs. It’s a simplistic touch that actually makes “Ted” fundamentally satisfying, even if it becomes hard to recall what caused the mirth in a post-viewing atmosphere.

The CGI central character is impeccably rendered; granted a precious lease of life thanks to MacFarlane’s spirited vocal work. Watching a teddy blaze up narcotics, chill with hookers and talk trash was always going to be amusing, but MacFarlane also ensures his fuzzy protagonist leaves an impression beyond the profanity. Wahlberg also deserves major props, the actor reacting with strong timing and incisive improvisational sense against his digital sparring partner, something that can’t have been easy for the usually stern action man. John has his faults, but as numerous and infantile as they are, Wahlberg’s warmth and grounded approach keeps him likable. Kunis isn’t really stretched as Lori but fulfils the role’s basic requirements (although her chemistry with Wahlberg is middling at best), whilst Joel McHale, Patrick Warburton, Matt Walsh and a host of strange cameo appearances inject further chuckles. I won’t spoil the surprises here.

The bromance in “Ted” is shockingly touching in parts, MacFarlane’s thoughts on extended adolescence and the need to abandon childhood more developed than initially anticipated. Despite featuring a superfluous kidnapping subplot (though this does allow Giovanni Ribisi to be very silly, always a positive) the finale pulls at the heartstrings confidently, McFarlane ditching the absurd for a smidgen of emotion. It works delightfully.

“Ted” is a worthwhile watch, in an auditorium with a game audience it’s an entertaining sit. The individual jokes never quite match the high-concept premise, but it still packs enough punch to make it one of this year’s better comedies. MacFarlane has transitioned his distinctive brand effectively onto bigger screens, showing a competent technical hand along the way. You’ll get exactly what you’re expecting here.

 A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2012


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