Starring: Mark Whalberg, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane (as the voice of Ted)
Released: August 1st
I am a huge fan of Seth MacFarlane’s hit animated TV shows Family Guy, American Dad and The Cleveland Show so I was apoplectic with excitement when I heard that he was attempting a big screen offering and I had huge expectations for this film. Perhaps I oversold this to myself as while I found this to be very funny and enjoyable enough in parts it ultimately left me quite unfulfilled and dissatisfied.
In typical MacFarlane fashion the story is pretty unconventional and sees a young, friendless boy, John Bennett, wish that his beloved teddy bear could come to life. When his wish is granted he’s overjoyed and the story makes news around the country, with Ted becoming something of a celebrity. However 26 years later it’s a different story. Ted’s fame has waned and he is a wastrel and a freeloader and John is now a 35 year old man who has never realised his full potential – mainly because he spends much of his time getting stoned or drunk with Ted.
The one mature relationship in John’s life is with his girlfriend Lori (Kunis) whom he has been dating for four years. She has put up with his attachment to his magical childhood toy since they met but when the couple arrive home one night to find Ted entertaining a group of hookers, one of whom has defecated on the floor, she decides enough is enough and that John needs to live a separate life to Ted.
After finding his furry friend an apartment and a job, John tries to focus on his relationship but finds breaking away from his lifelong companion harder than he imagined and the pair are soon back to their old ways, causing Lori to throw in the towel and dump John. As he blames Ted for his relationship breakdown the cuddly toy is dealing with troubles of his own as he is pursued by a mad fan who wants to own him – through fair means or foul.
This has many MacFarlane trademarks, including cutaways to tell “humorous” side stories, plenty of pop culture references (including a brilliant extended cameo by Sam J Jones, best known for playing Flash Gordon in the 1980 movie of the same name) and lots of puerile humour. The problem is that while these work incredibly well in an animated setting many of the scenarios are a bit silly when applied to a live action movie.
He has called on many of his stable of voice actors, including Alex Bornstein, Patrick Warburton, Patrick Stewart and Kunis, to contribute to this but you get the feeling that their appearances are for the novelty value rather than to offer anything to the story. Warburton’s Guy is a colleague of John’s in a car rental company and serves no real purpose other than to provide an opportunity for a cameo by Ryan Reynolds. Meanwhile Bornstein as John’s mother is never mentioned again after the first few minutes of the movie.
The idea that a grown man could be so infantile due to a toy like Ted persuading him to misbehave grows pretty tiresome pretty quickly and Ted just isn’t cute enough to get away with some of the things he says and does – with crudeness rather than innuendo being the order of the day.
MacFarlane is obviously trying to make a very grown-up comedy but doesn’t seem to have analysed how to transfer his style of humour from animation to live action. All the actors do well with what they are given but the underlying bromance vs romance story just isn’t strong enough to carry this tale for the duration of a feature film. The subplots with Lori’s predatory boss and Ted’s devoted fan also fall short as the characters are never given a chance to develop.
While I found some parts of this enjoyable, it missed the mark more often than not and even die hard MacFarlane fans will find themselves scratching their head at most of this offering (unless they happen to smoke as much weed as Ted does in the movie, in which case it will all make perfect sense). A word of advice also – even if you let your kids watch his television shows, don’t consider bringing them to this as it’s entirely unsuitable for a younger audience. This is a real shame as I know many families who love watching his other work together and in trying to up the adult ante MacFarlane has eliminated half his audience.