Reviews

Ted

4

More bear-faced cheek than you could imagine…

Seth MacFarlane isn’t the first animation maestro to try full-length live action.

Beavis And Butt-head/King Of The Hill creator Mike Judge’s first attempt, Office Space, scored cult success; Idiocracy and Extract (also starring Ted’s Mila Kunis) followed.

Brad Bird (The Incredibles) recently took on Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. On the flipside, fellow Pixar alumnus’ Andrew Stanton’s John Carter was a reminder that crossing over can be dicier than it looks...

Having expanded his cartoon universe to three series (The Cleveland Show and American Dad! joining Family Guy), MacFarlane was clearly looking for a challenge.

The initial plan was to place the foul-mouthed, dope-smoking, hooker-loving teddy bear into yet another animated show.

But the idea of planting the bear in a traditional romcom context struck, around the same time as the technology had reached a place where a CG mo-capped bear could fully convince. And lo, Ted the adult comedy was born.

The basic premise is simple enough, if casually fantastical. Christmas 1985: living in the Boston suburbs and longing for a best friend, eight-year-old John wishes his stuffed bear to life. His wish comes true; John gets his buddy, and Ted becomes a celeb.

Refreshingly, MacFarlane doesn’t go down the well-worn imaginary-friend route or keep Ted in the closet. Instead, the character gets the full child-star treatment, including mag covers and an amazingly well-integrated appearance on The Johnny Carson Show.

However, like most child stars, sustaining public interest is a problem. Flash forward 20-plus years; Ted (voiced by MacFarlane) and a 35-year-old John (Mark Wahlberg) are still best buddies, but they’re fresh out of cuteness.

Ted’s a womanising, unemployed slacker; John has a dead-end job in a car-rental joint. This may work just fine for them both, were it not for John’s girlfriend Lori (Kunis), who’s hoping her partner might leave his teddy behind and step with her into the adult world.

In MacFarlane’s savvy hands – he directs the movie, co-written with Family Guy regulars Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild – it’s a nuanced set-up.

Family Guy viewers know how swiftly they accepted that baby Stewie and family dog Brian (mis)behave like grown-ups; with Ted, one of the leads being a living, breathing bear is almost immaterial.

Instead, the focus is on real questions. When is it time to grow up? How much should you compromise to do so? And when do you place your new relationships above your old ones?

When Ted shifts away from the “Look at that, it’s a swearing bear!” novelty circus, and delves into these deeper, more relatable subjects, you’re given a reason to keep watching and caring.

Not that Ted is a conventional comedy: it’s still stocked with enough fart jokes, pratfalls, flashbacks, digressions and throwaway obscenity to keep MacFarlane’s regular customers satisfied.

There are so many nods to the Griffin clan and their unique ways that it sometimes feels like you’re watching an extended episode.

Ted, for one, is basically Peter Griffin shrunk to footstool size and wearing a bear suit. (In one self-referencing moment – of which there aren’t too many – Ted notes how people think he sounds like Peter, who’s also voiced by multi-tasker MacFarlane).

Quick-fire and high-scoring as it is, the cartoonishness wouldn’t work without the rest of the cast playing it straight. Wahlberg hits every note as the dude torn between his two closest companions, projecting a wide-eyed, well-meaning if clueless innocence as he’s semi-reluctantly dragged into adulthood.

In the hands of a lesser actress, Mila Kunis’ Lori could have come across as a miserable nag; instead, you empathise with her struggles to get her man on track. The supporting cast also bring their A-game.

Giovanni Ribisi is the twisted Ted fan who wants to get close to his childhood idol, while Community’s Joel McHale shines as Lori’s over-interested, creepy, meddling boss.

And, never straying too far from the Family Guy playbook, there’s a stack of cameos: MacFarlane regular Patrick Stewart is the film’s smoothly deadpan narrator, while other stars of stage, screen and fondly remembered ’80s cheese pop up in unexpected and generally winning ways.

It almost goes without saying, but Ted isn’t for everyone: it’s lewd, crude and rape-joke rude, as happy with the cheap shots as it is with nudging the narrative onward.

But if you’ve already bought into the type of off-centre world that MacFarlane’s conjured before, you’ll enjoy seeing that world fleshed out and – when it comes to the crunch – made surprisingly cuddly.

Verdict:

A fabulous first live-action effort, combining R-rated hilarity with skilled storytelling as it slips some real heart into the stuffing of a toy bear.

Film Details

User Reviews

    • bencobra

      Jul 23rd 2012, 10:40

      4

      Saw this in the States. There will not be a better comedy released this year. Highly recommended.

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    • lionelruiz

      Jul 27th 2012, 4:39

      This review made me want to give it a shot. Might not be that stupid.

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    • JohnJDuffy

      Aug 3rd 2012, 8:40

      2

      Hmmm when did someone tell Mark e mark that he was a comedian? And then he's gone "yes I am, aren't I" then someone has cast him in these god awful "comedy" rolls. I mean through out the film he is always a second behind the comedy timing, there is no improvisation on his part, you can tell he's just reading from a script as it is written. There rant over but I feel this would have been a much funnier film if he were replaced by someone who could do comedy, however I believe that if it were a man called Ted and not a toy bear it wouldn't be that funny anyway.

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    • joaopaulonoura

      Aug 21st 2012, 5:26

      the movie is cool!! no doubt that this fix ....

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    • World

      Sep 26th 2012, 12:32

      I really liked this film because it has dirty jokes and funny humor on every scene was just funny if you’re a jokey person you would like this film. At the end of the film it is little bit sad but still very funny

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    • Jareth64

      Feb 4th 2013, 12:35

      3

      For me the best parts of this reaonsably enjoyable film were at the start and then end, when Patrick Stewart's very amusing narration kicks in. He's underused in the film as these bits are quirky and very amusing. Everything else is pretty good, but it certainly drags towards the end. The whole "boss perving over fit girlfriend" stuff with Mila Kunis was tedious, though. Not everyone falls onto their knees just because a co-worer is "hot", you know? duuuuh!

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