Seth MacFarlane has a thing about talking animals; the pet dog in Family Guy, a goldfish in American Dad and even a full-grown, shirt-wearing bear in The Cleveland Show. So it’s no surprise his debut feature film centres around a talking, magical teddy bear – albeit a foul-mouthed, pot-smoking, sex-obsessed teddy bear. But, as with MacFarlane’s other personifications, little Ted can get away with certain risqué jokes a human character could not pull off.
‘Ted’ is a tried and tested storyline about a little loner boy who wishes his toy teddy bear was real, but morphs into a buddy-stoner-flick that shows not all toys grow up to be Buzz or Woody. 30-odd years after making said wish, John (Mark Walhberg) is still best bros with his childhood cuddle toy, but now they’re living together with John’s girlfriend, Lori (Mila Kunis), spending their days smoking pot, watching Flash Gordon and avoiding responsibility, in between John’s shifts at his dead-end job. Something that Lori isn’t willing to settle for.
Ted is everything you’d expect from the brain of Seth MacFarlane. The opening joke is a swipe at the Jewish and the closer is a one-lined jab at popular culture that won’t be funny in 5 years. But, most surprisingly, there were only one or two punch-lines that crossed the boundary into the “too far” territory – though their inclusion may be purely to make the rest of the film’s antics seem milder by comparison.
The first third of the film feels a little unfocused. A mash of skits and jokes that – while amusing – didn’t fit together or elsewhere in the film. And the movie is nearly twice as long as it needs to be as we travel through the boy-meets-girl (boy loses girl, boy gets girl back etc.) storyline twice; only, the second time with a living, breathing teddy bear in place of the illusive girl. But the film gathers all its strings together somewhere around the halfway mark and we move through a purposeful narrative peppered with one-liners – poking fun at every imaginable sub-sect of culture and religion – and a surprising amount of heart.
Aside from the drastic age difference, Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis have a very sweet chemistry between them. Kunis’ performance, aided by some great writing, finally gives a human reasoning as to why hot, understanding cartoon women stay with their loud-mouthed, unattractive husbands (Lois & Peter, Marge & Homer, Wilma & Fred etc). Aside from the constant references to John and Lori being the only good looking options of their respective sex in Boston, their relationship and interaction with each other shows that after four years and despite the other person’s flaws (and talking stuffed toys), a relationship can still be fun.
Seth MacFarlane is teetering on the edge of being the Tim Burton of fart jokes, working primarily with the same cast and crew. And you’ll recognise a whole lot of people from his other adventures, if only by voice – which can become a little confusing when their voices are so easily recognisable as Brian, Meg, Joe, Lois and more. A few hilarious and surprising guest stars crop up but the self-reflective references that surround them are quite heavy-handed.
As a whole, Ted simultaneously features everything you’d expect from the creator of the crudest animation allowed to air on mainstream TV and more tenderness than you’d think Seth MacFarlane was capable of. It’ll appeal to your fart-loving sixteen-year-old sense of humour while still being a film you wouldn’t be ashamed taking your girlfriend to (and if she thinks farts are funny, that’s just a bonus).