When little John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) makes a wish for his teddy bear to come to life, he’s astonished to find that it actually comes true. The best of friends, Ted (Seth MacFarlane) and John are inseparable. Fast forward and John is now 35 and he and Ted are still best buds, although his girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis) isn’t so thrilled with the pairs’ close friendship.
Ted comes from the creative mind behind Family Guy and American Dad, Seth MacFarlane, and it’s not difficult to see the influence. It very much comes across as a case of trying to make a film for the Family Guy audience without actually making a Family Guy film.
Pretty much everything is present from the crass humour to pop culture references, and as a good handful of the Family Guy voice actors are used, it’s even aurally very similar. However, Ted is deeper than it would first appear. At the heart of the film is a charming story about a man clinging on to his childhood and struggling to take the next important steps in his life.
MacFarlane is clearly a classic storyteller deep down and employs a host of textbook filmic devices throughout, such as the car chase, the fight scene, the sex scene, and plenty more. Whilst nothing groundbreaking, it does all add up to a much more complete cinematic experience than it could otherwise have been. This could also be an attempt for MacFarlane to try and prove that he has more to him than just scripting animated TV shows.
Childhood is a major theme of the film, and MacFarlane’s was obviously a major influence when writing it. There are nods to various films that have shaped many a person’s childhood, including Indiana Jones and Star Wars, as well as smack-you-round-the-face references to others such as Flash Gordon. Whilst this works for those who also grew up with said movies, it can be a little alienating for those who didn’t.
That’s not the only reason that some of the jokes miss their mark, which unfortunately quite a few of them do. Some of the cleverer, more subtle Family Guy humour has been lost and replaced with cheap expletive-based jokes and easy ‘haha-the-bear’s-taking-drugs’ jokes that do get a little tiresome, whilst some are aimed squarely at a US audience, thus becoming a little lost in translation for those of us across the Atlantic. This is a harsh criticism for a film made in America by Americans but it’s still worth highlighting that a chunk of the humour may go over UK audiences’ heads.
Ted is much more than just a Family Guy film and manages to find a nice middle ground between comedy and drama. Those expecting a laugh-a-minute may be a little disappointed, but at the centre of everything there’s a beguiling little story with entertaining performances from Wahlberg and Kunis as well as the wonderfully rendered Ted himself. This is a solid debut feature from MacFarlane and it would be no surprise to see him branch out and move further away from the Family Guy formula for future projects.
Words: Chris Thomson