Film Review: Ted

 

As the result of a childhood wish, John Bennett's teddy bear, Ted, came to life and has been by John's side ever since - a friendship that's tested when Lori, John's girlfriend of four years, wants more from their relationship. (Source: IMDB)

Family Guy maestro Seth MacFarlane plays the foul-mouthed, coke-snorting talking teddy bear namesake of this playful, R-rated riff on a childhood wish turned humdrum adult reality.

In what proves to be a set-up as wacky, nonsensical and peculiar as another of family man Peter Griffin's cutaway gags though, Ted might open as a kid-friendly riff on a children’s movie (boy wishes his stuffed toy to walk and talk like him), but what follows is the most unconventional buddy movie you’ll see all year. Alas, it's a film dosed in the same vulgar profanity, borderline-offensive jokes, memorable visual gags (Ted’s wooing of a white trash store clerk is a particular favourite – you’ll not look at hand cream the same for days) and the kind of off-kilter cultural references you’d expect from a MacFarlane production.

For flipping the kids’ film formula on its head, the concept at least deserves credit. It’s a film that you could only imagine takes place some 30 years or so after the closing credits of some of our most fondly-remembered childhood flicks, where the talking teddy is no longer a kid-friendly plaything but social and moral degenerate stoner buddy.

In that sense, Ted at least for the most part gets by on little more than the uniqueness of its premise alone – seeing a stuffed bear get high and shoot the shit with 'Marky' Mark Wahlberg barely gets old – hand in hand with the kind of nods to pop culture (a Flash Gordon sub-plot, the almost obligatory social networking reference) and quite hilarious comedy, at times, to be expected from the debutant director behind Family Guy.

Anyone familiar with such will delight at the sly winks and knowing nods to the show that made MacFarlane’s name; from an uncanny guest appearance from Ryan Reynolds all the way to the bloodied over-the-top fight between Wahlberg and CG Ted – a return of the epic Griffin vs. Chicken fisticuffs that so often hijacks sections of the show.

But there’s little else to really get excited about here. Look past the uniqueness of its premise and the quietly brilliant visual effects (Ted himself is brought to life through motion capture) and what’s left is a fairly run-of-the-mill romantic comedy about a faithful partner (Mila Kunis) struggling to make sense of the bromance that so often leads her by the wayside in this oddly flat boy-girl-bear love triangle. Others, particularly those from the appointed King of R-Rated Comedy Judd Apatow, have worked similar routines and paid them off much better (see Knocked Up).

Ted isn't a bad comedy by any stretch of the imagination, it's just that it so often settles for average. We hate to keep coming back to Family Guy, but like the show that made MacFarlane so well-known on the comedy circuit, Ted all too regularly falls back to the routine of throwing gags at the wall in the vain hope that some will stick. It is what it is. 6/10