Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth Macfarlane
You may like this if you liked: anything Family Guy related, Flash Gordon (Mike Hodges, 1980), The Hangover II (Todd Phillips, 2011)
John Bennett is a child with no friends, and one Christmas he makes a wish that his teddy bear, called Ted obviously, would come to life. He does and they vow to be best friends forever. However Ted grows up to be a pot-smoking, swearing sex obsessed layabout who basically always makes a grown up John (now Wahlberg) the same. However, John’s long term girlfriend Lori (Kunis) wants John to change his ways and make Ted get a job and his own place. This places severe strain on his relationship with her and his friendship with Ted.
Before I express any opinion on Ted, it is vitally important to state that I am not a fan of Seth Macfarlane. I liked family guy at first and I don’t mind his particular style of puerile humour. When studying screenwriting I was always reminded of the rule of three when it came to jokes, however Seth Macfarlane is obviously oblivious to this, and as Family Guy must be on its 2,000th season by now the jokes just haven’t changed and have just become extremely old and boring. I enjoyed his first Star Wars parody, but the other two were just exactly the same and in my humble opinion boring and not funny. Now here we have Ted, his first feature length film, as I am sure as anyone can guess, my expectations were low.
In this review it will be hard not to include spoilers, but as I am probably one of the last people to see it I guess that should not be a problem. Firstly, this is no change of style from Family Guy; the humour is exactly the same. That is fine, and I will confess there are some moments that did genuinely make me laugh. However, my main issue is that Ted simply does not work as a film. The last thirty minutes are embarrassingly cringe-worthy and almost undermine everything before it. Though I feel I must state right now this is not necessarily the fault of Seth Macfarlane, more due to fact that films of this style have to conform to a certain narrative structure.
This could have been a 40 minute family guy episode in which Chris Griffin gets a teddy Bear for Christmas and it comes to life and they worry about how he and the bear will grow up etc etc. However, when venturing into the realms of feature length films there are certain narrative rules that a commercial film like this has to conform to. The Inbetweeners Movie (Ben Plamer, 2011) had exactly the same problems. There has to be character arcs, a dramatic scene towards the end, a bad guy getting his redemption and a sense of catharsis at the very end. All this happens and just does not fit in with the tone of the film and feels very unnatural, almost like one of the producers sat Seth Macfarlane down and said “this is a feature length film Seth, the studio need this, this and this to happen”. Macfarlane included this but didn’t really want to and wasn’t really sure how to, and it shows. I personally found the last third of this film embarrassing to watch and very boring. I was however resigned to the fact (as it seems Macfarlane was) that it had to be there.
Now to the humour, it is basically puerile and immature, which I do not actually mind. Most of the jokes here appear many times in plenty of Family Guy episodes and are quite old now or anti Semitic, even if it is Patrick Stewart saying it. As I said before, there are moments I found genuinely funny. The fact is the main basis of this humour, like so many Family Guy episodes, when not extremely crude and anti Semitic, is based on our personal nostalgia. Seth Macfarlane basically relies on having enough money to pay famous faces of the past that we all make fun of out of in conversations at the pub and getting them to make idiots of themselves on screen for him. In the case of Ted, it is mainly Sam Jones, Ted Danson and Tom Skerritt. Admittedly, these are very funny but can still work exactly the same in a film about two blokes, not necessarily a film about a man and a teddy bear. This ultimately leads to the question, what is the actual point of Ted existing as a film? It simply has nothing original to add.
As for this humour, we of course find this funny because of the nostalgic element. However, the people laughing the most are these celebrities of yesteryear as they are getting the huge pay cheques. I remember Family Guy episodes that include James Woods and Molly Ringwald. This almost, God forbid, asks the question, is any of Seth Macfarlane’s comedy actually genuinely funny? Or is it just a combination of crude and taking advantage of our natural nostalgia? These famous faces will appear (in cartoon form – automatically cheaper) saying self referential but apparently comedic dialogue and Seth Macfarlane fills in the gaps with cheap fart jokes. Does that make it actually quite clever as he knows how to manipulate our ‘sense of humour’? I certainly do not have the answer to that one. I will of course be accused of over analysing here; however, Ted is a feature length film and so I am reviewing it as such. I know this film is very popular and I will concede that for a group of blokes staying in getting drunk on a Saturday night this is more than adequate.
In summary, fans of Family Guy will not be disappointed, and there are some very funny moments. However, as Ted is a feature length film it has to therefore confirm to the certain narrative rules as such, and this contributes so much to its downfall to produce an extremely average and surprisingly empty film experience.