Love it or hate it, there’s no ignoring the sheer size of Family Guy’s fan base. When it was announced that creator Seth MacFarlane would be making the leap from 20 minute animation to a full-length live-action movie, we were interested to see if he could pull it off.
As a lonely 10 year old boy, John Bennett’s wish for his teddy bear to come to life comes true. Now in his thirties, John (Mark Wahlberg) still lives with Ted (MacFarlane), as well as his beautiful, patient girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis). But can John really grow up when all he does is get drunk and stoned with his teddy bear?
Despite not being the biggest fans of Family Guy, we’re happy to report that MacFarlane’s first film is a definite success. The idea of putting a high-concept spin on the “slacker buddy holds our hero back” genre staple is actually quite effective. While the film makes the most of the shock value that comes from having a drunken, pot-smoking, foul-mouthed, womanising teddy bear spitting out disgusting zingers, it’s nicely balanced by the fact that both Ted and John really care about each other. The scenes in which they realise they have to move on and grow as people are actually quite sweet, which is in turn countered by the shockingly funny scenes of regression and bad behaviour. MacFarlane fans won’t be surprised that it’s also heavy on the pop culture references and although a few do fall flat, they mostly work very well. There are also several celebrity cameos which we won’t spoil here.
Things do peak around the halfway point as John struggles to keep his promise to grow up in the face of spectacular temptation. Ted starts to drag a little towards the final third, although this part of the film boasts a spectacular fist fight that left us struggling to breathe. While there’s nothing particularly wrong with the plotline of John and Lori’s relationship, MacFarlane struggles to keep it interesting. It’s not the fault of the performers. As a Family Guy cast member it’s not surprising that Kunis is game for some toilet humour, and she has good chemistry with Wahlberg. The problem is that, given that the film packs so many big surprises, the scenes in which their relationship flounders never really offer anything unexpected. However, these are fairly minor complaints.
Ted owes much of its success to Mark Wahlberg. He’s endearingly wide-eyed and well-intentioned, he’s up for the nerdier humour, and he completely sells the concept of a guy getting hammered with a teddy bear. There’s also an solid supporting cast including veteran scene-stealers Joel McHale (Community) as Laurie’s sleazy boss, Giovanni Ribisi as a creepy Ted fan, and Patrick Warburton (Family Guy, Seinfeld) as John’s sexually baffled colleague.
There are some pacing issues and it’s occasionally a little too happy to follow the “three’s a crowd” comedy rules, but Ted is a definite success. It’s funny, it’s often surprising, and Wahlberg is brilliant.
Family Guy fans will obviously love it but it’s also a hilarious comedy with some fantastic surprises that we’d recommend to everyone.