The problem with a lot of modern trailers is that you feel like you seen the film already by the time the movie they’re advising arrives in the cinema. So it is, generally, with Ted, Seth MacFarlane’s live action fantasy comedy about a stoner and his talking teddy bear.
This is not to say that Ted isn’t enjoyable, in fact when I saw the trailer, I knew I’d enjoy the film, as I’m already a fan of MacFarlane’s animated series, particularly Family Guy, but if you’ve seen any of his cartoons then Ted’s gags and style of humour are telegraphed far in advance.
Mark Wahlberg plays this film’s underdeveloped adult – the latest in a series of comedy characters with the interests, intelligence and emotional maturity of the film’s t(w)eenage target audience – and fans of Family Guy and American Dad may not recognise Mila Kunis and Patrick Warburton at first, but they will as soon as they open their mouths, not to mention Patrick Stewart’s voiceover that bookends the film. At least the director is self aware, voicing Ted himself, as he comments at one point on how people think he sounds like Peter Griffin…
As well as treading funny but familiar ground for fans of the cartoons, the film’s other point of reference is 1980s family fantasy movies with the plot – a teddy coming to life by a small boy’s wish – not out of place in a Spielberg produced movie from 30 years ago. However one major element of the film, not telegraphed by the trailer is a homage to a much loved film from 1980 which includes an extended cameo by its star, and which works well as many of Peter Griffin’s dream sequences in Family Guy.
So far, so undemanding, and while MacFarlane can be praised for making a dumb immature American comedy comparable to anything by Judd Apatow or the genre defining half dozen films by the Farrelly Brothers in the late 90s / early 00s (apt, since MacFarlane worked on the Ace Ventura cartoon series), there’s nothing truly transgressive about Ted. The most underrated film of this subgenre that is genuinely shocking as well as funny – Freddy Got Fingered – was memorably described by Peter Bradshaw as being “among the worst experiences of my life” and sank without a trace.
If Ted had half the ideas, shock factor and gags of FGF, MacFarlane would be heralded as a brave, ground breaking genius right now… Like most of the films in the gross-out comedy genre, any of the relatively mild gags in Ted that rely on their shock value are matched by the typical ‘heart of gold’ final redemption of the male lead.
I can’t fault the film for delivering exactly what the trailer and MacFarlane’s career have so far promised, but disappointment comes from the under-use of Giovanni Ribisi as a stalker with son, who could have played a more memorable psycho than he does here, and the entirely predicable twist ending. That said, if you’re bored of the Olympics and have seen The Dark Knight Rises, it’s a reasonable way to spend a couple of hours in an air conditioned room.