Runtime: 1 HR, 46 MIN
Director: Seth MacFarlane
Writers: Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, Wellesley Wild
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane, Joel McHale, Giovanni Ribisi, Patrick Warburton, Matt Walsh, Jessica Barth, and Patrick Stewart
A feature film directed by Family Guy’s Seth MacFarlane? It’s a concept that up until a few months ago I had never given much thought to. Imagine my surprise when I first heard about Ted and my even greater surprise that it was a live action film and not an animated feature. It’s a big jump to go from a thirty minute animated sitcom to a feature film but after seeing Ted I’m surprised it took this long for it to happen.
Life was tough for John Bennett, he was a lonely and awkward child until he received a very special Christmas present… a stuffed bear that he named Teddy. One night John wished that Teddy could talk so they could be real best friends and to everyone’s surprise his wish came true and an ordinary stuff bear came to life and changed John’s life forever. Twenty-five years later John and Ted are still inseparable which interferes with his dead end job and his relationship with his girlfriend Lori. After growing tired of being the third wheel Lori demands that John make her his priority in life by making Ted move out on his own.
Coming as a shock to no one Ted shares a lot of similarities with other MacFarlane productions, namely Family Guy. John (Mark Wahlberg) is a better looking, less retarded version of Peter while Ted (Seth MacFarlane) is essentially a more foul mouthed and horny version of Brian with a dash Roger & Stan from American Dad mixed in. Ted (thankfully) doesn’t feature Family Guy’s signature cutaway gags but its brand of juvenile humor is present in spades.
Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis may have top billing in Ted but Seth MacFarlane is the star. Ted’s performance was created by MacFarlane wearing a motion capture suit and interacting with the other stars of the film and it works to great effect. Ted truly comes to life and feels completely real even though he’s just a CGI bear. If you’re a fan of MacFarlane’s brand of humor Ted will be right up your alley, if you can’t stand Family Guy or his other shows then you’re not going to find much to like in Ted either.
Continuing to confound me is Mark Wahlberg; in some films he’s a complete dud while in other films he’s simply amazing. In Ted he hits the role out of the park even while playing second fiddle to a teddy bear. I honestly believe he has to be given a really good script to work from or he’s completely hopeless (i.e. The Happening, The Lovely Bones, The Truth About Charlie). It’s nice seeing Mila Kunis get to be more than her usual punching bag on Family Guy as Meg. I enjoyed her performance, she’s the ‘straight man’ for John and Ted which is a rather thankless role but she nevertheless helps move the story along. Thankfully the chemistry between Kunis and Wahlberg is much better than it was in the dreadful Max Payne film adaption.
While Ted is full of energy the film goes off the rails a bit in the third act. Early on an obvious bit of foreshadowing hints at a potential danger to Ted and it of course comes to fruition during the film’s other dramatic turning point. Each individual storyline works but when mashed together it becomes an overlong, clichéd mess. With a bit of creative writing both stories could have been weaved together to create a more satisfying finale that wouldn’t have clashed so much with the tone of the rest of the film.
Ted is a much better film than I would have thought possible. It’s not a simple Family Guy cash-in; Ted has a lot of heart, a ton of genuine laughs, and is a much smarter film than most would expect. Seth MacFarlane delivers the goods as both a director and as the film’s ‘star’ and continues to show why he’s one of Hollywood’s most sought after talents. Ted isn’t a perfect film but it is one of the best surprises of the summer thus far and is an easy film to recommend.