By Andrew Pollard
Let me first start off by saying, despite the cute, cuddly teddy bear lead, this is not a film to take the kids to. Ted is a crass, vulgar, very adult comedy from Seth MacFarlane, the creative mind behind Family Guy, American Dad, The Cleveland Show and Seth MacFarlane’s Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy. If you’ve ever seen any of the aforementioned shows then you know his style of humour is very adult and often oversteps the mark with a lot of people. Ted is no different.
The basic premise is that John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg – The Fighter, The Departed, Three Kings and, of course, Boogie Nights) receives a teddy bear for Christmas as an 8 year old. The younger version of Wahlberg’s John isn’t very good with other kids, and finds himself isolated and in need of a best buddy. One night he makes a wish for his teddy bear, who he has creatively called Ted (played by MacFarlane himself), to come to life and be his best friend for life. Miraculously, when John wakes up in the morning, his wish has come true. Ted is now a walking, taking, breathing teddy bear. From here on, Ted becomes a celebrity and gains a following, even appearing on the Johnny Carson Show. Fast forward 27 years late and the best buddies are now all grown up and living in an apartment with John’s girlfriend, Lori (Mila Kunis – Black Swan, Family Guy, Max Payne and, of course, American Psycho 2). John and Lori’s 4 year anniversary is looming on the horizon, giving John the worry that she’s going to expect something big, something wedding ring big. Whilst they’re more than happy in their relationship, she’s at the point where she’s looking for her 35 year old partner of 4 years to put down his teddy bear and for them to get on with the more serious, settling down type stuff; largely prompted by a stripper, brought back by Ted, having a ‘number two’ on their living room floor. This is where Marky Mark has to bite the bullet and have the ‘you need to move out’ conversation with his best friend of 27 years.
And so it goes, Ted understands John’s position and moves out to his own apartment and gets himself his first job, working as a check out attendant at a local store. There’s some laughs along the way, most notably some brilliant responses to questions asked in Ted’s job interview (mentally noted, ready to use in my next interview). The films pans out much as you’d expect, apart from Ted having a creepy fan, played by the always fun Giovanni Ribisi, that is offering to buy Ted as a toy for his young son. Ribisi’s character has been obsessed with Ted since he was a child and will seemingly not take no for an answer.
As always with MacFarlane’s work, there’s lots of references thrown in for people of a certain generation; that generation being those that experienced their childhood in the ’80’s. There’s nods and winks to the likes of Star Wars, TJ Hooker, Indiana Jones, Cabbage Patch Kids, Teddy Ruxpin, Cheers, Top Gun, Nintendo’s NES, lots and lots of shout outs to Flash Gordon (including a cameo by the man himself, Sam J Jones), and many more. There’s even a great scene of John and Ted lined up, in fancy dress, ready to watch Stars Wars: The Phantom Menace. Anybody of a certain age will be fully aware of the anticipation felt in the build up to that movie… and we all know what happened next.
The film follows a relatively predictable path, but at the same time you often find yourself genuinely caring for a stuffed toy, albeit a talking, swear, drinking, prostitute-liking toy. The characters are played out well, with Wahlberg again showing that he can do comedy when given the right material, and Kunis carefully walking the line between demanding, realistic, sympathetic and appreciative. The ending pulls on the heartstrings and there’s lots of feel good moments throughout the film, in typical MacFarlane style – I’m just a little surprised that he didn’t throw any show tunes or major dance numbers in there. That said, for the Boogie Nights nerd in me, there was a Wahlberg dance scene, not quite harking back to his Dirk Diggler or Marky Mark days though.
There is a chance that this film will offend certain people, but if you’re familiar with MacFarlane’s previous work, and are a fan, then chances are you will be firmly in your comfort zone when the expletives begin to fly (and fly they do) and the tone sharply begins to lower. I was a little surprised that the film only received a 15 rating, as some of the humour is definitely of an 18 certificate nature, but it is what it is. If you like McFarlane’s humour and tone then this is definitely for you and I’d give it a firm 4 cursing bears out of 5.