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Saturday, 31 January 2015

REVIEW - TED (2012)

Directed by: Seth MacFarlane
Written by: Seth McFarlane, Alec Sulkin, Wellesley Wild
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane
Music by: Walter Murphy
Release date: June 29, 2012


When Ted was released in mid 2012, it proved to be one of the biggest comedy hits of recent times. It become the highest-grossing R-rated film in its genre, raking in an impressive box office gross of $549 million with its modest $50 million budget, and spawning a sequel set to release later this year. It's not really any surprise that it ended up being a hit: it has an appealing and fairly creative central premise, and is the feature directorial debut of Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, who also co-wrote the script and voices the titular character. Ted clearly rode the waves of MacFarlane's popularity in the world of animation, ensuring that it would be very hard for it to fail. But the question is, was Ted's success actually warranted?

John Bennett is a lonely eight-year-old boy, shunned by everyone who isn't related to him by blood. When his parents buy him a new teddy bear for Christmas, he makes a very special wish: that his bear could actually talk to him, so they could be best friends forever. John gets his wish, and by means of a "Christmas miracle", Ted magically comes to life, with the abilities to talk, think and feel. Twenty-seven years later and Ted has become a phenomenon. People love him. John on the other hand (Mark Wahlberg), looks physically different, but inside he is essentially still a child, and is still just as attached to Ted as he was all those years ago. If John has any intention on moving ahead with his life, he'll have to save his talking teddy bear from the clutches of an obsessive super-fan who wants to buy Ted for his son, and simultaneously find a way to move forward with his girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis), which he may not be able to do as long as Ted remains.


Even if you aren't overly familiar with MacFarlane's work, it's very clear to see that his fingerprints are all over this film. A few actors from his shows make appearances, and his distinctive brand of humour is utilised here (except without the rigid, repetitive animation and constant cutaway gags, for the most part). It's no secret that Family Guy and American Dad have proven to be controversial in the past, and in a few instances MacFarlane's content has veered dangerously close to crossing the line, but there's nothing outrageously offensive in Ted. With that being said, it does of course contain jokes centred on race, rape and misogyny, and it's unabashedly idiotic, crude and politically incorrect. Some of it is actually pretty hilarious - a particular cameo comes to mind, among other things - and there's definitely no shortage of quotable lines or memorable moments, but then some are in slightly bad taste, and other jokes misfire (the incessant pop culture references are also driven into the ground a tad). If you've had issues with this kind of risque subject matter in the past, Ted isn't going to do anything to change your mind, but you would have to have no pulse to not at least get a few chuckles out of it.

Performances are serviceable across the board, but Ted is (predictably) the best character of the lot. It's never dull watching him interact with anyone or anything - whether he's going for a job interview or even just doing everyday human-y things like driving a car. He's also extremely convincing as a CG creation, and while the cuddly demeanour may have something to do with it, Ted actually comes off as an endearing and fairly reasonable guy/bear, even if he does have a tendency to get high while watching SpongeBob and has a near-identical voice to Peter Griffin (although that aspect of the character comes off as more curious than bothersome). He's also the one unique thing that makes sure the film isn't merely a formulaic exercise in narrative cliches, and by the end you might start feeling for him more than you probably should.


Ted's plot is not interesting, its third act feels like disjointed padding, and there isn't much to say about the rest of the characters themselves. Its character relationships are a bit more effective: John and Lori are a believable couple who, chances are, you'll find yourself rooting for. Even if it's not by particularly much, you should find yourself actually giving a damn, and coming from someone who normally couldn't care less about these things, that's saying something. MacFarlane's motion capture work as Ted has also proven to be a great asset, ensuring that the relationship between John and his teddy bear comes off as effortlessly natural, and you actually feel it when these childhood friends break apart and eventually get into fisticuffs, which surprisingly (and thankfully) don't last as long as any of the giant chicken fights from Family Guy.

Ted seems to have something to say through its thematic elements regarding friendship, growing up and letting go. These aspects do give the film a fair amount of heart that somewhat balances out the vulgarity, but they're also quite thin, so you're not going to be thinking about any of that by the time you get to the credits. There is nothing profound or particularly imaginative about Ted. But then again, if you're interested in this film, you're probably not looking for anything like that.


You are watching Ted to see Ted. He's the selling point here, and you shouldn't be interested in this film for any other reason than to see a teddy bear do amusing things that it normally wouldn't. At the end of the day, you could easily just sit down and watch a few episodes of Family Guy and laugh just as much - if not more - if you're a fan of the show, that is. Because really, this is little more than an excuse for MacFarlane to deliver his wise-ass remarks on a larger scale. But if that sounds appealing to you, then you're in luck. I'm weary of the sequel due to the fact that this film sometimes struggled to make use of its feature-length runtime (which shows that Ted probably would've worked better as an animated series with a 23-ish minute episodic format like it was originally supposed to be), but nevertheless, it certainly offers a solid amount of laughs, which is all it aims to do, really. Plus it's the only live-action movie out there that has a rebellious anthropomorphic teddy bear as its titular character, so there's that.