Saturday, 28 July 2012

REVIEW - Ted ★ ★ ★ ★

Review by Damon Rickard
Stars Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane
Written by Seth MacFarlane
Certification UK 15 US R
Runtime 106 minutes
Directed by Seth MacFarlane

WARNING - Trailer contains material unsuitable for those under 15

From the mind of the creator of Family Guy comes the story of an unbreakable friendship between a boy and his teddy bear.  Wait, what?!

That's right, our good friend Seth MacFarlane's first foray into feature film has a premise that does require a slight suspension of disbelief.  As a boy John Bennett (Wahlberg) didn't have any friends, even the kids that got beaten up didn't want him around as they got beaten up.  So one magical Christmas he wished his bear would come to life to be his BFF.  And as we have learned through movies over the years, there is nothing more powerful than a child's wish except, as Patrick Stewart's narration informs us, Apache helicopters.

As a living, breathing teddy bear, Ted (voiced by MacFarlane) gains a level of fame over the years but as time passes he, like all celebrities who have no discernible talent, gets forgotten about.  John and Ted while away their adult years smoking dope, watching Flash Gordon and just generally bumming around.  At least that's how John's long time girlfriend, Lori (Kunis) sees it and as she wants their relationship to finally start moving forward and grow, she sees no other option than to ask John to get Ted to move out.

Can John break the bond he created one Christmas night and choose the love of his life over his Thunderbuddy (watch the trailer for that one)?  Or will he always be at Ted's beck and call even if it means jeopardising his relationship with Lori?

The first thing you'll notice is that the humour is very much along the same lines as Family Guy, MacFarlane hasn't strayed from his comfort zone and sensibly so.  If it aint broke and all that.  In remain the pop culture references, the odd cut away (including a spoof of a spoof - think that's the first time I've seen that done), the borderline racist jokes, the crudeness and a voice that is a mix of Peter Griffin and Brian.  He's even surrounded himself with familiar faces and voices including Kunis and Stewart, Patrick Warburton and Alex Borstein alongside genius cameos from Ryan Reynolds and Tom Skerritt.  There is one more that tops the lot but I'm leaving that one as a surprise and it possibly contains one of the funniest moments of the year, behind the Hulk smash Loki scene from The Avengers.

MacFarlane does a fine job of mixing the drama, sentiment and humour, keeping the first two only in use when the story needs it.  He knows that this is all about the funny stuff and uses the conventional movie making parts only to move the story along, recognising that the Family Guy style narratives wouldn't make for a hour and a half movie.  And what Ted really does deliver on is the funny stuff.  This had me letting out full on belly laughs and even when the film finds the odd lull here and there it has enough to be this year's funniest film.  And one of the funniest I've seen in quite some time. 

Yes it's silly, yes it's crude but I didn't care - it did what it meant to do, make me laugh.  The performances are spot on, with Wahlberg proving that perhaps his comedy chops are better than his dramatic ones.  His relationship with Kunis is handled very well, never being over sentimental and just as it threatens to do so someone gets knocked out with a mic stand.  As you do.

The criticisms I would lay at the door of this are potentially the same as the reasons I thought it was great.  It is a bit too Family Guy, even to the point of you actually wonder why the hot chick has spent so much time with the lifeless arse (although the big difference here is Wahlberg isn't exactly lacking in the looks department - and this exact fact is mentioned as MacFarlane obviously recognised this issue).  It also does slow towards the middle whilst we get through the story parts and you just want more gags. 

But overall this is a brilliant debut from MacFarlane, delivering exactly what it intended and by the bucket load.  An hilarious romp through the magical friendship of a boy and his bear, a fairy tale for adults. Us guys probably all wouldn't mind a friend like Ted.


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