Best Friends Forever?
Have you ever tried to review a Seth MacFarlane series? As much as I love American Dad a lot of the comedy in his various shows are quite samey; less in plot and more tone. As such, this review is going to be exceptionally tricky to pad out and if it comes off as eighty per cent filler, I apologise.
The premise of Ted is an incredibly simple one. One Christmas evening a young, lonely boy named John Bennett makes a wish that his new teddy bear was in fact a sentient being.. granted, he didn’t phrase it like that. The next day the bear comes to life, much to the initial horror and dismay of John’s parents and goes on to shock and intrigue the world. Throughout the late 80’s Ted becomes a bit of a ‘child’ star but always makes time for his best friend John. As the narration aptly puts it, “No matter how big a splash you make in this world, whether you’re Corey Feldman, Frankie Muniz, Justin Bieber or a talking teddy bear, eventually nobody gives a shit.” Which brings us to the present day and a 35 year old John [Wahlberg] who is still living with foul-mouthed, pot smoking cuddly toy, Ted [MacFarlane]. Both reside with John’s girlfriend of four years, Lori [Kunis] but the cluttered household life is starting to put a strain on John and Lori’s relationship. As such, Ted is forced to move out but separating from his childhood friend proves increasingly difficult for John, who finds himself continually skiving from work to get stoned. Underneath the central narrative of the bond between John and Ted is the creepy fanboy [Giovanni Ribisi] who randomly crops up every now-and-then, hoping to purchase Ted for his spoiled son.
Concept aside, it’s very easy for a continuously swearing puppet to lose its initial humorous appeal but the plot manages to entertain and surprise audiences without ever really deviating from wholly predictable scenarios and solutions – odd sentence, I know. A more succinct way of saying that would be, if you’ve seen one MacFarlane production, you’ve seen them all but that doesn’t mean they’re not bloody hilarious. Last time I saw Wahlberg and Kunis in a film together it was Max Payne… and that was utter dog shit. So shaking that image was relatively tricky – the two foot talking bear helped. Overall Ted is an impressive directorial debut, the pacing is good, the jokes are obvious but work, the performances fit and the direction is reasonably standard but wholly capable. The score was a little flamboyant at times, mixing MacFarlane’s penchant for big musical numbers and brassy John Williams-esque pieces but on the whole it works rather well. Furthermore, it’s only at the very end of the film that you actually stop and think about the fact that the bear was CGI – which is an incredible achievement.
Ultimately, Ted suffers from the same defects as everything else MacFarlane has helmed. The plot is littered with pop culture references and subsequently this film will age badly. I mean, it’s largely toned down and doesn’t feel as bewildering as the first series of Family Guy but the colloquial humour is pretty much lost on international audiences and coupled with contemporary products and celebrities I’ve never heard of, a lot of decent jokes fall by the side of the road. Additionally, this film also panders to kids of the 80’s and younger fans are going to be equally confused by the unfamiliar faces and items. But that’s unavoidable and accurate to real life interactions, so we’ll move on. There’s also the casual racism that racists will laugh with rather than at. In the same way that Sacha Baron Cohen created Ali G and Borat to take the piss out of wannabe middle class gangstas and people ignorant of or unable to deal with foreign culture, the public misinterpreted them and laughed at the base level jokes. So while being a beautiful stereotype of a roguish Boston duo, John and Ted will largely be regarded as inspirational figures. In other words, if you’re laughing and thinking, “Hey, that’s just like me and my buddy!” then you’re a douche and everyone else in the cinema is laughing at the fact you exist as opposed to the nonsense you’re rambling on about. Then there’s the incredibly neat ending. I admit there were few ways to end this film well but it was still a little safe, a little paint by numbers and although this is a directorial debut, you’d think after a decade of pushing the envelope, MacFarlane and co. would have produced something unique. And finally, despite the potential, the Ribisi sub-plot is a little wasted. He simply turns up at the end of the film and is dispatched just as quickly; wholly predictable. Enjoyable. But predictable.
It’s very difficult to find new ways of saying ‘This movie was funny if offensive to those with delicate sensibilities. It is pop culture heavy and resolves neatly but overall I was entertained.’ And in all honesty, the second people find out this is a MacFarlane production they will come to their own conclusions based on their previous experiences with his comedic style. Point in case, despite the several hundred people who worked on this film, I’ve used the word MacFarlane seven times. In my official capacity as a film critic, I would say it’s a curiously heart-warming, foul mouthed comedy that delivers several ridiculous scenarios and laughs. Having said that, I’m a fan of this brand of humour so make of it what you will.
1st August 2012
The Scene To Look Out For:
I think the two interactions between Ted and the grocery store manager were particularly amusing, solely for the brazen attitude and shockingly blunt content. That’s all I’m saying on the matter, don’t want to ruin it.
Anything with Sam J. Jones was gold. For some unknown reason Flash Gordon plays a large role in the narrative and the extended cameo made by Flash Gordon’s lead (who I haven’t seen since that one episode of Stargate thirteen years ago) was pitch-perfect from start to finish. That man needs more work in comedy. Either that or Patrick Stewart who ‘appears’ as the narrator. For some reason, listening to Patrick Stewart saying outrageous shit never gets old: “Remember Branden Routh from that God awful Superman movie? Thanks for getting our hopes up and then taking a great big shit on them!” in particular comes to mind.
“There are some fucking weird fish out there”
In A Few Words:
“Crude, obscene and sophomoric but curiously endearing, Ted is the atypical MacFarlane release – which will guarantee a complete polarisation of the audience”