With his three successful animated shows – American Dad!, The Cleveland Show and his biggest hit Family Guy – still doing gangbusters on both sides of the Atlantic, and a wealth of A-List talent in his phonebook, the leap to the big screen for Seth MacFarlane was an inevitable one. Considering his flattery for everything Hollywood (through equal parts imitation and mockery) the leap appeared to be an easy one. The landing, however, is way off achieving anything close to full marks.
John, a boy so lonely that even bullied kids take time out of their daily beatings to insult him, wants a friend. When a Christmas wish (when else) comes true and his toy bear comes to life John has a friend for life. Fast forward 30 years, John and Ted are making sure their development is well and truly arrested, anchored to the couch by the bong. Presumably because he looks like Mark Wahlberg, John has still managed to hold a steady relationship with Lori (Mila Kunis) for the past four years. But after an incident with some hooker faeces, Lori lays down the ultimate ultimatum; “It’s me or the bear…”
Ted may not be the least cinematic movie of the year, but it’ll certainly reach the podium. With a modest budget and a plot straight out of an after school special, MacFarlane’s début was never attempting an aesthetic to rival the special effects extravaganzas of other summer fare (no-one is asking for TDKR but many would have settled for a sub-Woody Allen look) but the TV cinematography, a lack of any narrative drive and a dangerous tendency to pause for laughter that never comes makes everything feel painfully small. By refusing to take into account how vastly the two mediums of film and TV differ, MacFarlane’s film feels overly stagey, relying on whether or not you think the hilarity of a thick Boston accent is worth the trip to the cinema.
When it comes to the comedy MacFarlane and co. are on familiar terra firma, opting for the tried and tested formula of ‘sex joke’ plus ‘fart gag’ times ‘popular culture reference’ equals ‘chuckles’. But when one of these elements falls short – in this case the pop references often fly over the heads of even the most ardent yankophile – the end solution takes a hit. In keeping with the mathematics (it’s difficult to quantify comedy) we’d predict you’re paying well over a pound per genuine hearty laugh. Bonus points should be awarded for a ‘rape joke’ that actually works (e.g. the joke is not on victims of rape but uneducated viewpoints).
Fair play to Marky Mark for his ability to extract urine out of his persona so comfortably. Those who find the Boogie Nights and The Departed star overly serious will spin their opinion when they see him holding hands with a stuffed toy singing ‘The Thunder Song’. Mila manages adorable and sexy for entrance into the ‘Greatest Movie Girlfriend Club’, while supporting players Joel McHale and Patrick Warburton do a lot with a little. Gold medal for self-annihilation goes to Giovanni Ribisi as Ted’s stalker, busting out some sexy/creepy dance moves that would make Buffalo Bill blush.
But even with all these elements pieced together – including a third act that outside of Cabin In The Woods is the oddest of the year – Ted is still a little bare.
Ted is understuffed. Too pre-occupied with the hugging and the learning, Seth MacFarlane’s first foray into features is better suited to the small screen. Like his cartoon output, one would also assume that intoxication helps. So wait for the DVD and get as monstrously inebriated – in whichever form you choose – as possible. Just don’t waste a trip to the cinema on it.