Ted – Review

Ted – Review

Review by FilmFellaDarren – 7.8/10

Family Guy, American Dad and The Cleveland show creator Seth MacFarlane has gotten more comedic mileage out of wise-cracking critter sidekicks than a room full of Disney and Dreamworks directors. His style of anthropomorphizing animals however, is a far cry from Disney, and considerably more wry than Dreamworks’ family friendly stuff. Instilling a quick, dry, distinctly adult wit into cutesy cartoon animals is a formula that MacFarlane pioneered in his aforementioned television comedy series’. It comes as no surprise then that MacFarlane’s long awaited first feature film revolves around yet another razor-sharp witted talking animal character. But, does Macfarlane’s formula work on the big-screen? Can he create more laughs by yet again subverting a visually cutesy character? Or has he proven to be a one trick pony? It’s a yes to the first two questions – there’s still plenty of comedy gold in MacFarlane’s formula. Is he a one-trick pony? Possibly – but if the trick is this funny, who cares? In fact, MacFarlane has such a talent for giving animal characters alternative, adult personas that he could probably take that one-trick pony and turn him into a wise-cracking comedy creation.

It’s about time we met MacFarlane’s latest comedy character: Ted. He started out life as a generic shop bought teddy bear, purchased to keep a lonely boy from feeling sad and blue. But after said little boy – named John -wishes upon a star, hoping his fuzzy companion could become real, The Universe grants him his wish and magically, the teddy bear becomes rather chatty, much to John’s surprise.  Usually when little boys in movies discover magical talking toy animal companions, they keep them locked away from cynical, magic hating adults, but in a refreshing change of pace, this little boy decides to be a little more open, sharing his magical miracle, thus catapulting his wondrous furry friend to instant stardom. But alas, fame is a fickle thing – today’s celebrity wonder is tomorrow’s long forgotten shelf stacker – even if you are a talking teddy bear.  Thus a formerly friendly little teddy bear becomes a beer swilling, bong smoking, cult tv watching, ass chasing bear behaving badly – but is he an asset or a burden to his now grown up human friend?

The great thing about Ted is you know exactly what you are getting before you go in; if you haven’t enjoyed MacFarlane’s punchy but scatter-shot, often outrageous approach to comedy on the small screen – then why the bloody hell would you want to pay money to watch his comedy on the big screen? Answer – you wouldn’t – thus Ted screenings will be packed with MacFarlane’s many fans – so auditoriums will be filled with people genuinely and consistently laughing out loud at Ted and Mark Wahlberg’s raucous, riotous, risqué comedy shenanigans.

The plot isn’t really important – it’s half baked, or given just how much weed is consumed by the bear and company in the film– that should be ‘soooo’ baked. It’s ok that the story is rather loose though, rambling along as it does like as if it has been made up by someone consistently taking hits from a bong, that’s part of the considerable charm of Ted – the off-kilter style of the comedy and attempts to please the late night stoner crowd with hilarious, drug induced surrealism. As expected from McFarlane, the script is sharp and tight – the rapid fire comedy style of MacFarlane enlivens the film; smutty gags, racy jokes and witty one-liners come thick and fast. Sure, some jokes do bomb badly – I’m thinking of the cringe-worthy Chinese stereotypes involved in some terribly broad, and dated throw-back jokes. It might just be because I watched the film surrounded by Chinese people in a Taipei cinema, but I was squirming in my chair when the film wheeled out the crass Chinese gags.  Overall though, the comedy is a lot more hit than miss – even if the best jokes are in the trailer.

The novelty of seeing a teddy bear smoke weed, score with girls out of reach for the average male, down beers and quip dryly, generates laughs through-out the film – you’re honestly never going to get tired of this alternative, taboo breaking toy story – it does feel fresh. MacFarlane’s vocals give Ted a great deal of humour and the fact that he uses his Peter Griffin voice adds a bucket load of laughs.

 

The ever likeable Mark Wahlberg does really well at bringing the bear to life, bonding ‘bromance’ style with his two foot fuzzy verbal sparring partner. There is a great deal of amusing banter between them. Wahlberg seems an unlikely choice to be playing one of those thirty something man-children, the kind who refuse to put away childish play things and become a responsible person in the adult world – those are the roles usually snatched up by Seth Rogen or Will Ferrell. Wahlberg does a good job of making the character seem like a real guy and his relationship with Ted plays like a modern day version of Harvey, on acid, or more aptly – on weed.

 

There are lots of obscure old TV references that seem a bit odd at first but then make more sense when you see what Macfarlane’s has in-line for the second part of the film. The many nods to old eighties TV shows, combined with the drug-induced craziness will guarantee that this gets repeat viewing with the stoner crowd long after its finished it’s run in the cinema.

The lovely Mila Kunis is again a charming presence in a comedy. Her character could have come across as a bit of a bitch since she puts pressure on John to part with his beloved talking teddy, but Kunis makes her seem sympathetic, – and because of this, a lot of the relationship stuff in there resonates. There’s a good relationship message for the late twenty-something to early thirty year old males; if you’re the kind of guy who will blow-off a hot date with the girlfriend in favour of, I don’t know, a Flash Gordon marathon with your mates, then you might relate to the film, reconsider your priorities and subsequently give your other half a little more attention, perhaps even take her out for dinner – this film makes you want to do that. It’s going to be a hit with the ladies as well as the guys then, thanks to Kunis’ performance.

Just space for a quick mention of the cameos – don’t worry, part of the charm of the film is discovering just who pops up in the film so I’m not going to give away who makes an appearance – suffice to say, the man who Wahlberg and the bear party with is an absolute legend and his appearance in the film is mercilessly funny. There is a rather odd and utterly wordless cameo from Ryan Reynolds – it gives nothing away to mention it since it’s so pointless – did they discover him walking around the studio and just decided to allow him to wander into the movie? It’s seriously weird and not in a good way.

There’s also a hit-and miss subplot involving the always fantastically strange Giovanni Ribisi. Macfarlane attempts a shift from comedy into dramatic territory with Ribisi’s character – it is only really half-way convincing. It’s the trigger for a bit of a mawkish finale to the film – it’s hard to decide whether there is some studio intervention in the ending, or whether it’s some half-hearted attempt at parodying a Hollywood finale – it definitely could have been better.

He’s a funny guy is Seth McFarlane – his long awaited first film doesn’t disappoint – his distinctive comedy tone looks right at home on the big screen. The film might lack the satirical bite of his television series’, but the comedy spin on a man refusing to part with his teddy bear provides much hilarity and guffaw inducing, outrageous – did the bear just say that? – comedy ingenuity.

About Filmfella Darren
Film critic, writer and long-time cinema appreciator. I write about cinema matters, because cinema matters. Like your clothes and your laptops, my articles were made in Taiwan.

One Response to Ted – Review

  1. conordcfc says:

    Hey, just wanted to say what a good review this is! Glad to see you enjoyed the film, I found it hilarious too! Check out my review when you have the time, I’d appreciate it! Thanks http://conordcfc.wordpress.com/2012/08/03/film-review-ted-2012/

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