Police? This guy took my teddy bear!
... Hello? Hello?
Christmas 1985 and an unpopular kid called John Bennett gets a teddy bear which he names Ted. Sad and with no friends he wishes that Ted could talk to him and wakes up the next morning to find his wish has been granted. Ted is a cute and friendly young bear who wants friendship and hugs. Twenty-seven years later Ted (Seth McFarlane) and John (Mark Wahlberg) are sat on their sofa smoking pot and talking about how Boston women orgasm. The two have remained friends but appear stuck in a rut of adolescent smut and innuendo which is getting neither of them anywhere. John’s girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis) issues John with an ultimatum – it’s her or the bear, and the two friends must figure out if they are capable of or even safe to live apart.
I’ve been looking forward to Ted for months and it feels like ages since it was released in the States. Now it’s finally here I can report that it fully lived up to my expectations.
For anyone who isn’t aware, writer, director and Ted mo-cap actor Seth McFarlane is best known for creating Family Guy, The Simpsons politically incorrect and funnier late night cousin. As you’d expect McFarlane brings much of the same humour to Ted as his hit cartoons and even brings along cast members (himself, Kunis, Alex Borstein, Mike Henry and Danny Smith), cut scenes and a similar swing like score. Stick to what you know… The jokes come thick and fast and again follow similar lines to Family Guy with long winded exposition of why the joke was funny as well as pop culture references coming at you left, right and centre. As a non American viewer the odd reference went over my head but gladly this was more rare than during Family Guy. I do feel for anyone who hasn’t seen Flash Gordon though.
The three lead actors deliver good performances with Wahlberg ones again proving that comedy is his forte in a remarkably deadpan role as Ted’s human friend. He manages to be slovenly, useless and yet likeable (a little like another famous McFarlane character). Walhberg shows off the rapper inside him with a remarkably well executed scene which will be familiar to you if you've seen the trailer. He works well with the CGI Ted too. There was only one moment where I got the feeling that Ted wasn’t really there with him but other than that it was like he was in the room. Seth McFarlane is no stranger to voice over work but here combines that with the motion capture animation made famous by Andy Serkis. He is very good as Ted and delivers his lines with comic perfection. Mila Kunis is also good although she isn’t given as much of the comedy to play with. She manages to tread a fine line between fun and annoying and has good chemistry with Wahlberg. Hers is a bit of a thankless role to be honest but she emerges from it without damage. One of the standout performances came from the often fantastic Giovanni Ribisi who is perhaps most famous still for playing Phoebe’s brother in Friends. Ribisis gives an incredibly creepy yet funny performance as a deranged Ted super fan/would be kidnapper. Others including Veep’s Matt Walsh, Joel McHale, Patrick Warburton and Bill Smitrovich add to an extremely funny ensemble which delivers great laughs whenever asked to step up.
Of the countless comedic highlights my favourites included the film’s very final words (in the epilogue), Ted’s reaction to a fat kid, the big fight, Lance Armstrong’s testicle and the “shit on the floar!” scene. Really though choosing a highlight from Ted is like choosing a chocolate from a box of equally appealing chocolates. There was barely a joke which missed its mark. Another highlight for both me and my girlfriend were the constant references to Flash Gordon which we both love. That film is simultaneously one of the best and worst films I’ve ever seen. Ted made me want to watch it again.
As well as the comedy the proceedings take a predictably sad turn in the final third. I wasn’t really prepared for quite how sad though and my girlfriend actually started crying in the seat next to me. The plot does take over from the laughs in the final third but the comedy doesn’t disappear entirely. There were times when I wanted to get back to the straight comedy and forget the plot but I suppose you can’t have an ending without resolving what’s going on.
The animation of Ted is absolutely fantastic. He looked amazingly realistic as well as believably anthropomorphised. He had a weight to him which helped make him feel real and with the smut coming out of his mouth you almost forgot that he was a bear. The score is also worth a mention. Mixing traditional classical and swing with pop and plenty from Flash Gordon, it fits the film perfectly.
Overall Ted is outrageously un-PC, knowingly self referencing, incredibly funny, extremely well written and very well acted. If you’re a fan of Family Guy then you’ll undoubtedly love it, if you’re not then you’re probably either going to love it or hate it. This isn’t a ‘meh’ film.