Review: TED

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 2.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

When Family Guy first hit the airwaves in 1999, I loved it instantly.  It was the first animated network television show geared for adult audiences which pushed the envelope even further than The Simpsons ever did. Granted, creator Seth MacFarlane owes much of his ideas to the first family of adult oriented animation, but at the time, he took some risks and challenged “standards and practices”, aka the censors, with slightly raunchy content, and shockingly great humor.  Perhaps because this show played a little ahead of its time, it failed to generate ratings and was cancelled rather quickly.  The show developed a cult following when Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim started rerunning the old episodes.  Success on the DVD market finally proved that audiences were ready for a return of the program to network television.  Six years later and with two more successful animation programs under his belt, Seth MacFarlane brings his brand of off-color and sometimes raucous humor to a live action feature film. 

With Ted, MacFarlane, who co-writes and directs, tells the story of John Bennett and his best friend.  As a child Bennett (Bretton Manley) had trouble making friends in school.  On Christmas after receiving a toy teddy bear, John wishes that his favorite toy Ted would come to life.  The next morning he and his parents (Ralph Garman, Alex Borstein) discover that his wish came true.  Inseparable, John and Ted grow up together and eventually become roommates as adults.  The adult John (Mark Wahlberg) loves hanging out and getting stoned with Ted, but John’s girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis) wants him to grow up and perhaps move away from Ted, as she sees the bear as the source of his arrested development.

As I began watching this film, I really enjoyed the first act very much.  I loved seeing Ted come to life and how he affected John, his family, and the world.  However, when the story progresses to the adult years, this is where the jokes would hit and miss for me.  MacFarlane, who wrote the screenplay with Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild, struggles with his blend of shock and genuinely funny gags.  Some of the raunchy lines just did not work and felt like a child discovering “bad words” for the first time and blurting them out randomly to get a response.  In fact, MacFarlane’s Family Guy show has taken a similar turn with its reliance on shocking writing, ADD influenced cutaway gags, and less attention to storytelling.  Ted definitely feels like a live action Family Guy with its pop culture heavy jokes, off color dialogue, and cutaway scenes of its own.

Another problem I have with the material has to do with the fact that MacFarlane repeats and rehashes some of the same jokes and gags of his TV show.  Anyone who has seen enough episodes of Family Guy will pick up on this.  That is my biggest gripe with this movie. MacFarlane recycles too much of his old material here and fails to bring anything dynamically new to his film.  I love his imaginative idea of a teddy bear come to life and what would happen if the boy and his bear grow up together and remain friends to this day, but MacFarlane and his writers needed better written and fresh humor to make the entire movie work well.

To the film’s credit, the cast, which consists of several Family Guy regulars, deliver great performances.  Mark Wahlberg performs well as average guy, John Bennett.  The adorable Mila Kunis brings her perky and lovable personality to her role as John’s girlfriend Lori.  The movie also features appearances and cameos by Joel McHale, Giovanni Ribisi, Patrick Warburton, Jessica Barth, and is narrated by the incomparable Patrick Stewart.  I must say that Ribisi offers a stand-out performance as a creepy, crazed fan of Ted.  Seth MacFarlane voices the “adult” Ted, but pretty much sounds like his Peter Griffin character in Family Guy.

I feel this indicative of his failure to bring new and fresh material to this project.  I believe that die hard Family Guy fans will love this film.  Those, like me, who loved the show’s early seasons, but have grown a bit tired of it, will feel somewhat annoyed and frustrated with the movie.  After the hilarious and sweet first act, the hit and miss antics of the middle had me shuffling in my seat at times.  I will admit that the story does have a very funny and somewhat satisfying conclusion, though.  I just wish that the talented Seth MacFarlane had not been so redundant with his comic material.

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