Ted (Review)

“Can you believe those saps are paying for this Family Guy clone?”

I resisted Ted for a couple weeks, the thought process being that I couldn’t justify paying sixty bucks to watch an extended unbleeped version of Family Guy, a show that I don’t even watch that much any more even though it’s free.

But the situation conspired against me and The Dark Knight *sniff*. Actually not many factors, a free night and a wife that simply refused to watch three hours of Bat-Action (I know right!).

I’ve already mentioned the inevitable Family Guy (FG) comparisons, so let’s tick them off:

  • Firstly it’s written by the core FG writing group including Seth MacFarlane, who also directs.
  • It has almost every major FG voice actor in either major (Mila Kunis) or minor (Alex Borstein, Patrick Warburton) roles. Seth Green must have been at comic-con. Or perhaps he was the motion cap dummy for Ted… (Seth Green is a diminutive man folks).
  • It’s set in Boston, where it seems no accent is too grating.
  • Yep the cutaways are there, only a few but longtime FG watchers will spot them easily. Also there is the played straight violent fight sequence, which is funny because it is man vs… not man.
  • Aaaahhhh he we go, we reached the core element. Ted is a cute fuzzy child’s toy – that talks. MacFarlane stretched here, how ever did he come up with a concept where a thing that normally doesn’t talk interacts with a society that simply accepts this can be?

So there we have it. Ted could just has easily been Family Guy: The Movie with Brian and Peter, even American Dad: Roger and Stan go Wild, but Underdog singlehandedly poisoned the talking dog movie, and aliens are so Men in Black’ed out.

“What am I doing? Just banging the ‘ole register. What else would you think?”

And women like Teddy bears regardless of how much they swear, smoke, philander and fornicate, the cinema we attended was half filled with couples on date night.

To the movie. Ted was ‘born’ thanks to the sheer will of young John Bennett, a child with no friends and deep insecurities. After the initial global shock and interest at the existence of a talking, thinking and essentially ‘human’ stuffed toy, Ted becomes just another short fuzzy member of society, and he and John (Mark Wahlberg) remain inseparable best friends.

But while John baby steps his way into adulthood with a menial low paying, low responsibility job and a steady girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis), Ted keeps his carefully stitched behind affixed to the couch, drinking and smoking himself stupid, waiting for John to get home and palling around like best buds when he does.

A crossroads is reached once responsible and successful Lori decides that John must choose between slumming with Ted on the couch and building a life with her, though in reality as with an episode of Family Guy the plot is but a framework over which to hang dick and cancer jokes.

An aside for those who watch Family Guy: Ever tried Family Guy Easy Target Bingo?You haven’t? Well you’re missing out, and it’s so easy.Watch an episode. Any episode. And simply tick off the following as off colour jokes are made about them:

  1. Paedophilia
  2. Cancer; bonus for kid-cancer
  3. AIDS
  4. Gay
  5. Casual Racism (can be split into sub-categories; black/Asian/ Mexican etc)
  6. Rape
  7. Wife beating
  8. Joker. Insert any non-PC element here.

I could go on but I think you get the picture. Family Guy stopped being as funny when it stopped bothering with jokes and instead went for “Gosh I can’t believe they went there!” awkward laughs. Being edgy is one thing, but remaining edgy without dredging up the same topics is obviously hard.

Most Family Guy eps will let you tick off more than half of those. Ted was definitely no different.

Seth MacFarlane smartly took things a little further with his bigscreen debut though, introducing some undeniable elements from Judd Apatow and Will Ferrell films, namely the cameo (Norah Jones! Tom Skerritt!), the nerdish retro element (Flash Gordon!) and the heavy use of foreshadowing. There’s even foreshadowed cameos. Can I just say that when a character says “She’ll just head home and watch Bridget Jones Diary a bunch of times”, it should not be a highpoint in modern hilarity when moments later we cut to the character watching that film. The audience I sat it obviously don’t agree with me, more than one whispered loudly “That’s Bridget Jones!” as if it was the biggest plot twist since Jaye Davidson’s dick.

In similar news Ryan Reynolds got two of the bigger laughs in the films without a line of dialogue. The laughs primarily derived from the fact he is Ryan Reynolds.

I realise that by now I have made it sound like I ‘ha-Ted’ this film. Far from it, it was witty, crass (in a  mostly good way) and sports minor characters that bring unexpected laughs. Joel McHale and Giovanni Ribisi and Patrick Warburton make the most of their limited screentime.

Even though MacFarlane essentially smooths a couple rough edges from Peter Griffin for Ted’s voice it is an undeniable fact that he is a gifted voice performer and has incredible comic timing. He can also make awful karaoke hilarious without extracting the awfulness…

Mark Wahlberg plays Peter Griffin, Stan Smith, John Bennett as the likeable straight guy who happens to lead a crazy life, and Mila Kunis is always likeable, and possesses the most effective head tilt / eyes open wide combos in Hollywood. Seriously each subtle variation means something totally different but almost immediately recognizable, Will Ferrell and Adam Sandler should take note that comedy acting isn’t all inane yelling and god-awful over the top statements.

The bottom line is that Ted is a buddy movie with the primary dynamic between a man and a child’s toy. That in itself is momentarily amusing, so we must ask if the laughs come from genuine humour, or from the fact that Mark Wahlberg is getting the shit kicked out of him by a two foot tall stuffed plaything? Thankfully for the most part the jokes emanate from the goings on in the film rather than relying on this one device.

(I very nearly said just bear-ly. Thank goodness I caught myself there.)

Final Rating – 6.5 / 10. I’ll watch Ted again in the future, I’m sure the extras and commentary tracks will be worthwhile. But I’d still much rather have watched The Dark Knight Rises and caught this on DVD.

About OGR

While I try to throw a joke or two into proceedings when I can all of the opinions presented in my reviews are genuine. I don't expect that all will agree with my thoughts at all times nor would it be any fun if you did, so don't be shy in telling me where you think I went wrong... and hopefully if you think I got it right for once. Don't be shy, half the fun is in the conversation after the movie.
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