Ted Review By Adam
I could dance around what I truly think, or just come out and say it. Fuck it, I’m going to go with the latter: Ted sucks. Hard. This debut feature by Family Guy‘s Seth MacFarlane takes a decent comedy premise (a magical teddy bear with hedonistic urges) and runs it into the ground. There is one glaring reason why Ted fails to live up to its potential and, ironically, it’s the man responsible for the film: Seth MacFarlane. Has there ever been a more overrated ‘talent’ in the comedy industry? At least with Adam Sandler you know what to expect, but MacFarlane fancies himself a provocateur, an ‘edgy comedian’ telling hard truths and fearless jokes. The reality is: Seth MacFarlane is a fucking hack who runs around unchecked, unedited and most terrifying of all: studio sponsored. A film with Ted‘s ingredients should have you stone-drunk on laughter but this film is the comedic equivalent of pissed-in light beer: its 2.5% funny.
Ted starts off whimsically enough. Eight-year old John Bennet is a lonely child who, on Christmas, wishes for an eternal friend. Startlingly, his wish is fulfilled when his new stuffed teddy comes to life. After an (admittedly funny) introduction to the world at large, Ted (voiced and motion captured by Seth MacFarlane) is soon thrown onto the celebrity scrap heap and now fills his days smoking weed with (the now adult) John (Mark Wahlberg). While Ted is perfectly content to blaze his days away, his unambitious nature rubs off on John, much to to the chagrin of John’s long-term girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis). John and Lori are fast approaching their four year anniversary and Lori is hoping this landmark will lead to a deeper commitment. But can John put childish things —namely, Ted— away?
You know that modern dilemma where you see a trailer to a comedy film and think: that looks funny, but I hope that isn’t all the funny bits? Ted is the personification of that dilemma. Current film advertising is fucked. Not only do we get cynical, film-ruining trailers before every film, but now we get the modern phenomenon of ‘Red-band trailers’. These trailers aren’t rated and can slap the audience upside the head with violence, nudity and foul language. Ted‘s advertising campaign contained such a trailer. This was a brilliant move as the minute the talking teddy said ‘fuck’, an entire theatre full of tickets were sold. What wasn’t too bright was including (almost) every funny scene from the film in the trailer. By the time you had seen the trailer ten times (I see a lot of movies. I am a critic, after all), these scenes had lost their impact and, more importantly, their humour. It’s the filmic equivalent of having a buddy who wants to test out his new joke on every patron at the pub, except you owe your buddy some strained laughter; you owe Ted and its makers nothing.
The one thing Ted does have is a game cast. Mark Wahlberg proved his (intentional) comedy chops with The Other Guys and here he is actually funnier than the main attraction. Wahlberg is at his best when he is is playing the dummy with a heart of gold (Boogie Nights, The Fighter) and he can add John Bennet to this gallery of likeable lunks. Mila Kunis is proving to be a powerful force on the romcom scene and her mixture of knockout looks and solid comedic timing makes her a very welcome adition to modern cinema. It’s just a shame that in Ted she is the fun-busting shrew – I’d love to see Kunis run wild with the boys. Kunis and Wahlberg have great chemistry, romantic and comedic, so its unfortunate that whenever the sparks fly between them, MacFarlane comes over and pisses on their bonfire. The rest of the cast are given very little to work with: after the light of Community, Joel McHale is back to playing a one-note douchebag and Giovanni Ribisi hints at greatness as Ted’s unhinged stalker, but the script never lets him get as freaky as it should.
The character of Ted is a technical marvel. The animation is superb and so it should be. This Boston-set comedy cost $65 million to produce. Ted’s physical appearance — cute,cuddly and loveable — is the antithesis of his personality. While this dichotomous aspect is Ted‘s (intentional) comedic mainstay, MacFarlane often goes too far and strangles punchlines to death. Now, I don’t think that any topic is taboo in comedy: with enough wit, comedy can be derived from anything. MacFarlane is touted as a proponent of free speech and often calls his homophobic, racist, anti-semeitic gags ‘satire’ (and sometimes they truly are). But a hell of lot of the time, MacFarlane is just taking dumb, jocular swipes at easy targets. If he wants to play with the big boys (Gervais, McBride, Carr) and do edgy material, he’d better be smart about it. But if we use Ted as the yardstick, it seems MacFarlane is a fucking idiot. As detractors of Family Guy will attest, MacFarlane rarely qualifies his jokes. Why is Ted racist? Because he was brought up sheltered? Because he has had bad experiences? No. Just because it is funny if a talking bear ‘hates Mexicans’. Haha. HBO’s Eastbound and Down tackles the same material, but you are meant to laugh at Kenny Powers, not with him. Ted wants you to laugh because…MacFarlane says so and the fact that all Asians look like Ming the Merciless.
This film has been getting some pretty decent notices, but you could hear crickets in my screening: and this is why I’m so hung up on Ted. I’m no humourless arsehole, I just want some chuckles with my $11.50 and Ted gave me… around five. That’s pretty skint for a 106 minute film. Even by ’tight-arse Tuesday’ rates this film has an appalling strike out ratio. Its supporters would have to admit there are a huge amount of jokes that fall flat in this film – MacFarlane had two writers help him on this (Alec Sulkin and Wesseley Wild) but you’d never know it. A huge amount of these ‘gags’ are unpolished. That would be okay if this was some small independent comedy, but the fact almost all of these jokes had to be screened hundreds if not thousands of times (computer effects, baby) and no one put up their hand and said ‘Why is this funny, Seth?’ makes me believe that the man is surrounded by sycophants. While I would argue that comedy writing isn’t MacFarlane’s strong point, he is no Spielberg behind the camera: the film is shot on digital cameras in a lifeless way that makes even the (limited) action scenes dull.
If all that you need to laugh is a bear that swears, go buy a novelty card from an adult store. It will give you more laughs than this piece of shit. But if you love Family Guy, I’d have to recommend Ted …and booking yourself in for chemical sterilisation.
Two Stars (For everyone except MacFarlane)
Last note: In one scene, John sings an out-of-tune number to win Lori back. While the crowd boos John, Ted quips: ‘Still better than Katy Perry.’ I recently saw Katy Perry: Part of Me and I can attest: her film is actually better than yours, Seth.