The barrage of crude humour might be more than some can bear, but there’s a cuddly heart at the centre of this plush offering from Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane.
After stealing the animated prime-time crown from the likes of The Simpsons and South Park, Seth MacFarlane‘s Family Guy was one of the few shows in history to get cancelled only to come back stronger than ever. Parlaying his multi-Emmy Award winning success into American Dad and Family Guy spin-off The Cleveland Show, creator MacFarlane tries his hand at directing a feature film with a wholly original creation, albeit born of the same comedic protoplasm as his television work.
After making a childhood wish for his teddy bear to come to life, the adult John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) remains best friends with the ‘grown up’ Ted (voiced by Seth MacFarlane). However, as John’s relationship with girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis) gets serious, tension mounts between the trio, with Lori feeling that Ted’s slacker ways are holding John back. It doesn’t help that the shifty Donny (Giovanni Ribisi) wants the talking bear all to himself.
As with his television outings, MacFarlane and his co-writers (Family Guy veterans Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild) use a loosely structured plot as an excuse to hurl an almost never-ending succession of gags at the audience, and this is just part of the charm of Ted. Narratively, we have been here before, with these two stoners needing to find some meaning in their life in the face of big bad society, and of course, this is done with a decent amount of references to 1980s cult-classic Flash Gordon. Yet Ted, both the character and the film, is undeniably charming, and the superior cast that accompanies the lovingly rendered CG bear bring their best to the material.
Wahlberg continues to prove his impeccable comedy chops, finding the same groove that he did with I Heart Huckabees (2004) and The Other Guys (2010) and reveling in his native Boston accent. At one point, Wahlberg rattles off a series of over forty “white trash names” with the same straight-laced sincerity he gives his Oscar-nominated roles, adding to the believability of this fantastical tale. Kunis is mostly perfunctory, serving largely as a minor antagonist, but the major villain in Ribisi is slimy and hilarious. His uncomfortable dance sequence will go down as one of the most memorable of the year, even amid a sea of cameos and rapid-fire one-liners.
Yet Ted is the centre of this story, and MacFarlance has infused him with Teddy Ruxpin cuteness and Peter Griffin sass. There are times when the story is sacrificed in favour of being “outrageous”, but it is all in the name of comedy. Ted is a fairy tale, and while it may be a long sketch wrapped up in a potty-mouthed wrapper, it is hard not to want to cuddle up with your thunder buddy at the end of this.
Ted is released in Australia on 5 July 2012 from Universal. It hits US cinemas on 29 June 2012.