As the result of a childhood wish, John Bennett’s teddy bear, Ted, came to life and has been by John’s side ever since – a friendship that’s tested when Lori, John’s girlfriend, wants more from their relationship. Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlene tries his hand at live-action in his debut feature. Does MacFarlene’s erratic signature style translate here? Technically yes. But does it translate well? Definitely not. For less than 2 hours Ted is a grueling film once you quickly notice MacFarlene struggling within what he seemingly views as the ‘confines’ of a structured narrative, otherwise known simply as a story.
From the synopsis it would be natural to expect Mila Kunis’s girlfriend character to be a real threat to the central friendship, in fact it really isn’t, her demands for marriage are actually rational pleas for her 35 year old boyfriend to grow up a bit and reflect that in their long term relationship. She doesn’t whine or castrate him verbally; Wahlberg is the selfish one who consistently hands over his balls to an irritating toy bear that only seems fun to hang out with provided there are mind altering substances to hand. This really is the extent of the main storyline. Ted is the kind of annoying sidekick that is usually played by Vince Vaughn, putting aside he’s an inanimate object magically come to life (Ted not Vaughn) it’s the same insecure, foul mouthed man-child that gets high and holds nostalgia for eighties films above consideration for others. The CG effects used to create the bear are impressive but that’s where effort starts and firmly stops. The humour is consistent; in that it’s predictable and only shocking if your idea of edgy comedy is swearing without purpose, 9/11 jokes and referencing Justin Bieber. In fact strip away the stringing together of tiresome media nods and montages (sound familiar?) the film would last about 40minutes and essentially have nothing, even the kidnapping sub-plot appears grafted in at the last minute once someone pointed out the sheer lack of anything moving the film forward and that it may need more than a just beginning and a bit of a middle.
Wahlberg spends the whole time recreating his early scenes from Boogie Nights, no question he can play dumb with a heart well but you can almost see his brain struggling to multi-task: keeping up the Boston accent and having to emote opposite something that isn’t physically in front of him; something that sounds a lot like the director. Kunis, much like the female characters in MacFarlenes’ shows, is lazily relegated, a bit player on the fringes of a bromance in arrested development; one that we’ve seen a hundred times over albeit usually between humans. This is a particular shame as Kunis has the winning gift of being pretty, comically game and likeable, though in this instance she is pushed behind a litany of frat boy humour, complete lack of character and far too much eye makeup. There are so many things to dislike about the film and they all fall solely at the feet of MacFarlene. The man’s ego infects his work to an off-putting degree and no more so than here, what could’ve been at least a competent film considering the huge budget and potentially a break from his overbearing presence; winds up wholly obnoxious. Films solely concerned with repeating obvious pop culture commentary are hopefully not the way forward as frankly they add nothing to the increasingly derivative landscape of Hollywood, let alone much in the way of comedy value. Although the Flash Gordon scenes are somewhat endearing and the odd line or act of cartoon violence can raise a chuckle few would count lifting a scene (already spoofing Saturday Night Fever) from Airplane verbatim as fresh humour, a cheap move likely lost on a good proportion of Ted’s audiences anyway.
Ted is a film as flimsy as it is cringe-worthy, the characters are barely functioning, the premise is a mere one line whim and the laughs are tired, this kind of amusement can be found in several other low rent post-millennial spoof franchises or a decades’ worth of Family Guy re-runs.