After years, Family Guy creator Seth Macfarlane makes his live action debut in with Ted. Fans of Family Guy praise the show for its social satire, irreverent characters and its lack of fear in managing to offend pretty much every race, creed, colour and so-called celebrity possible. Simply put, its tongue isn’t so much in its cheek, but the cheek of the person sat next to it.
One of Macfarlane’s staple ingredients is the use of non-human characters and it comes as no surprise that, rather than taking on a traditional acting role, Macfarlane has chosen to play a motion captured Teddy bear instead.
Ted is the story of a little boy who wishes on a star for his teddy to come alive so they can be best friends forever. To both his and his parents’ surprise, the wish is granted and, fast forward a few years, Little Johnny and his friend Ted have grown up to become two bong-smoking wasters whose lives revolve around dead-end jobs and learning morals from re-runs of Flash Gordon. Surprisingly John (Mark Wahlberg) has managed to not only bag Lori (Mila Kunis) as his girlfriend but maintain a working relationship for four years. Needless to say the peace cannot last and it starts to dawn on Lori that perhaps she may not be the most important person in John’s life after all…
If the plot of Ted feels familiar it’s because it is. Taking all the clichés of a rom-com and coming-of-age tale it offer little in originality. What it does offer is jokes, and lots of them. In the past Macfarlane has leant heavily on quick fire gags, often recycled from his own repertoire. It’s almost like being pebble-dashed with comedy. The problem being that not all his witty zingers hit the mark and unfortunately these are also slung back at the audience again and again. This means that Family Guy can be as irritating as it is funny.
Luckily, Ted scores a much higher comedic hit rate than any of the previous Macfarlane projects and even those who find Family Guy or American Dad a grating experience may raise a smile or two. For instance, Ted’s use of physical comedy finally conveys the slapstick fight scenes which Macfarlane repeatedly uses in his animated versions. Seeing Peter Griffin fight a giant chicken for five minutes may seem funny on the page but for the audience it’s the worst comedic crime possible – it’s boring. It seems that live action may provide the platform for Macfarlane to translate his vision and this is also, in part, thanks to the cast.
Family Guy stalwart (and currently the hottest property in Hollywood) Mila Kunis is back and, coupled with the increasingly impressive Mark Wahlberg, she provides the comedic straight man to John and Ted’s bromance. Wahlberg proved his comedic chops in Scorsese’s The Departed, but with Ted he forms a naughty but loveable double act.
The character of Ted – as you would expect from Macfarlene – is hysterically offensive. If you’re Jewish, Black, obese, trailor-trash or have ever been a minor celebrity and don’t have a sense of humour – you might want to skip this one.
Comedy should be on the edge (otherwise it wouldn’t be funny) but how far is too far? Macfarlane has always strayed into the darkness for comedic effect and fortunately Ted toes the line perfectly. Ted may be lacking any originality, in either plot or morality, but with a high laugh rate, Ted is essential viewing.