From the mind of Seth MacFarlane – the man behind such TV animated hits as Family Guy, American Dad and The Cleveland Show – comes this most ludicrous of comedies. But the key to any good comedy is actually being funny and Ted certainly ticks that box.
Concepts don’t come much higher than this, pardon the pun. Ted centres on a boy, John, who gets a teddy bear for Christmas one year and that night wishes it would come to life and be his best friend. Lo and behold that’s exactly what happens. Cut to 27 years later, John is now 35 years old (now played by Mark Wahlberg) and Ted has grown up right alongside him, now a foul-mouthed, pop culture referencing pothead who is messing up John’s relationship with his long-time girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis).
Hitting the audience with joke after joke after joke, the film rarely lets up with its crude humour and references to everything from Flash Gordon (an extended gag throughout) to Justin Bieber – no one is safe. And just to be clear, despite at-first glance this being a movie about a cute teddy bear that talks it is incredibly rude, with enough swearing to wipe away any notions that this is at all a kids film. This ain’t your childhood’s toy story.
As a debut this is massively impressive stuff from MacFarlane. Fulfilling co-writing, producing, directing and voice acting duties he successfully achieves what he so clearly set out to do; make a genuinely funny comedy which keeps the laughs coming (even if there’s one you don’t connect with there will be two more coming right up to fix that), dispensing with the random cut away style of Family Guy et al, and even adding a touch of surprising heart to the proceedings. There’s a sweet message in there somewhere amidst all the swearing and fart jokes, and somehow MacFarlane – alongside regular Family Guy writers Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild – strikes a very nice balance.
There’s also some genuinely great supporting performances, with Wahlberg flexing his comedic muscles to once again prove he’s more than just the good-looking tough guy (Channing Tatum eat your heart out…), Mila Kunis who makes the romance sub-lot actually believable and a host of supporting performances and cameos from faces you’ll recognize left, right and centre. Crucially, though, the film keeps Ted himself in the spotlight and to its credit sticks to its preposterous concept the whole way. It does all it can to make sure you buy into the conceit by making Ted a real, credible character who you actually grow to care about and who you might actually forget is just a CGI creation. Never underestimate the power of convincing special effects.
The movie does falter somewhat when it feels the need to add an almost entirely unnecessary villain to the story, and ramp things up to a level that’s out of place with the rest. In comparison to last year’s similarly out-there Paul – also focusing on a computer generated character who swears, smokes drugs and thrives on referencing movies – Ted doesn’t quite handle things as well when it moves beyond the two main characters shooting the shit on the couch. Nevertheless, this is more effective as the overall comedy it aims to be.
Since the concept behind Ted is such a ridiculous one the finished product so easily could have fallen flat on its furry face. Fortunately Ted does no such thing thanks to a smart script, likeable performances, a sweetness to go with the crudeness and most importantly the fact that it’s just very, very funny. Job well done.