My fifteen-year-old Family Guy-mad self would have been very excited about this live action comedy film written and directed by the creator of the animated sitcom. After five years of growing up some more and re-connecting with The Simpsons, Ted was not first on the priority list this summer. And rightly so, I realised when curiosity got the better of me. The story is set up in a quite-funny prologue in which young John wishes his favourite teddy bear could really talk to him. For some reason, perhaps vaguely linked to a shooting star, the bear comes to life as a creature round about the same age as John, and thus they become inseparable and grow up together. During this section, the narration by Patrick Stewart is probably the funniest thing about it, if not the funniest thing in the whole film, when it occurs again at the end.
Subsequently the film moves into slob and scrounging friend verses nagging girlfriend territory, not miles away from the likes of I Love You Man. Mila Kunis’ first appearance as Lori in the film is fairly promising, sharing banter with adult John (Mark Wahlberg) and Ted, but the later scenes involving her pleading John to get a job, stop smoking pot with Ted, be a real man, etc., become tiresome quickly. In a promotional interview with The Guardian, Mila Kunis recalled her initial dissatisfaction with the character, and how she apparently insisted Seth MacFarlane rewrite her into something more than a nagging girlfriend, which unfortunately is difficult to discern in the film, unless the character was an all-round uptight bore to begin with. Lori’s character is not unlikeable, but this strand of the film – the conflict between John’s relationships with her and with Ted – is simply boring, especially when the comic relief is not hilarious. Furthermore the minor subplot of her struggle against sleazy-but-not-sleazy-enough-to-be-funny boss is a bit irritating.
Mark Wahlberg is with his big eyes, flaring nostrils, and Boston accent is sweet, sometimes funny, and always likeable as John. Ted, voiced by Seth MacFarlane is not unlike Peter Griffin, in sound of voice and personality; you don’t particularly like the character, but neither do you dislike him – a few of his lines provide decent laughs, and some minor characters provide a lot of the rest. One disappointing aspect of the plot in general was the failure to explore the idea of Ted being a has-been celebrity; not much is made of that, except his otherwise inexplicable ability to woo a (physically) beautiful woman. Giovanni Ribisi makes a reasonably funny appearance as a creep who, along with his chubby and equally creepy son, has his eye on Ted.
This film was certainly not a wasted effort from MacFarlane but most likely will be a disappointment to Family Guy fans. As thoroughly decent as the two main characters are, it doesn’t have as many edgy cultural references, and lacks the cutaway gags that gives the animated show most of its best comedy.