I seem to be in a film slump. Over the last three weeks I’ve consistently disliked the films I’ve seen; so I didn’t have much faith in Ted as I hate Family Guy and every other show director and star Seth MacFarlane has put his hands on. Yet something funny happened while watching his fairy tale about a magical teddy bear…I laughed. I laughed a lot! I thought Ted was adorable with the right amount of emotion to counteract the raunchy dialogue. The effects of Ted himself were great and the relationship established between the bear and star Mark Wahlberg felt genuine. If Ted could change the heart of a Seth MacFarlane hater, you know there’s something special.
Young John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) didn’t have any friends growing up. After receiving a teddy bear for Christmas he makes a wish to have the bear come to life. Well John’s wish is granted and Ted the bear becomes his one and only friend. Fast forward to adulthood and John is a 35-year-old slacker with his stoner teddy bear. This lazy attitude causes strife between John and his girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis) forcing the man to decide what’s more important: his girlfriend or his teddy bear?
Having seen a few snippets of Family Guy I expected Ted to be filled with offensive one-liners, bizarre references, and the need for the gross to supersede the story. Instead Ted proves that MacFarlane is done with television as he’s able to combine the story (and the emotion and strong narrative needed) with a lot of F-bombs and sex humor. Sure there’s the occasional poop joke but the majority of them lead to far bigger and more hilarious set pieces. A scene of Lori asking about someone going to the bathroom on her rug moves to a scene of her trying to clean it up with John cowering in the corner, showcasing their relationship dynamic amongst the toilet humor. The script for Ted is remarkably consistent and well-thought out. Its obvious MacFarlane understands his audience as the film opens with John’s parents freaking out over a teddy bear that’s come to life (fans who have watched Child’s Play would have killed the bear regardless). The strongest elements are in the relationship between Ted (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) and John. The effects of the bear are amazing as it never feels like Wahlberg is talking to thin air or a puppet; it looks like Ted’s alive. This comes across even better when it’s believed Ted is dead and there’s a physical change in appearance. Even better, the script doesn’t dehumanize the girlfriend. It would be incredibly easy to make Lori the enemy but instead she wants John to grow up and assume responsibility. There’s even a scene where Ted tells John he’s responsible for himself, moving the film away from the typical pity party for the main character. If anything Ted is the perfect blend of story, comedy, and character…all from the guy who made Family Guy!
The acting is spot-on and well-done. MacFarlane does the voice work here and while he does sound like Peter Griffin (to which his character actually acknowledges he doesn’t), there’s emotion and heart behind the voice work. Ted is not a bad guy; he’s just lazy and likes having fun. The fact that the film does give his character a taste of celebrity adds to his arrogance and ignorance about life. Wahlberg lets loose as a character that enjoys getting high. This isn’t Mark Wahlberg, action hero, but genuine man. Lori says in the film that John has a big heart and it’s evident through Wahlberg’s characterization. This is a guy who truly loves his girl and his friend. Kunis also sparkles in a role that, again, could have been an archetype. Lori is also a good person who does like Ted; she just wishes he wouldn’t be such a pain in the ass.
The film slows down a tad when it focuses on Lori and John’s deteriorating relationship. There are still loads of one-liners, and a hilarious and surreal kidnapping plot involving Ted, but it does make the film sag a bit. This is truly nitpicking though.
Ted is a delight. It’s almost akin to something like Wedding Crashers where a true love story and friendship shines amongst the filth of the sex and the crass jokes. MacFarlane indulges in all his childhood loves, including his obsession with Flash Gordon, which allows for humor to hit audience members of any ages. Just don’t expect this to be a kids film as a few of my audience members noticed when they sat down with their kids.