McFarlane’s Ted is full of dumb, mean-spirited fun

Seth Macfarlane has long been revered by his fans as the man behind the adult-oriented cartoon “Family Guy” and its various spin-offs and sister shows.  With Ted he brings his risqué sense of humour to the silver screen for the first time and in doing so, sheds the shackles of censorship attached to network television programming.  It is little surprise then that Ted is rude, crude and shamelessly cruel as Macfarlane unloads jokes that, it would seem, he has been sitting on for years; just waiting for this opportunity to finally pull the trigger.  More often than not, Ted is funny, but there’s such a flurry of gags all shapes and sizes, little room is left for plot or character development.

As the writer, director and voice of the eponymous plush teddy bear, Ted is without doubt, the Seth Mcfarlane Show.  However, unlike his television programmes, Ted is live action (though Ted, the character is CG) so Mark Wahlberg steps in as Gary… errr, John, the mature of age, but not of mind “thunder buddy” of Ted.  Mila Kunis plays his long-suffering girlfriend Lori.  Yes, Ted’s main plot (ahem) bears a striking resemblance to that of The Muppets, but instead of the warm-hearted sweetness of Jason Segel’s efforts, Ted basks in being mean-spirited and crass.  While The Muppets never draws a laugh at the expense of anyone, Ted will point and laugh at anything and everyone.  Yes, it is at times very funny, but it’s quite cheap as well.  In fact, the film’s introduction is one of the few times where Ted really earns its laughs by presenting a terrifically amusing backstory of how John’s teddy bear came to life, which has its tongue planted firmly in cheek.  Once set in modern day, the slacker storyline comes off as incredibly passé.  Replace Wahlberg, or even Ted, with Seth Rogen and this is a whole lot of been-there-done-that comedy.  Though Macfarlane tries to add a touch of drama to the film with Giovanni Ribisi’s Ted-stalker creeping about the periphery, what makes Ted work as a comedy is Macfarlane’s love of nostalgia and ability to create hilariously random situations.

It’s the nostalgia angle that really dominates Ted.  This may not be surprising given the obvious inspiration for Ted is the much-loved eighties’ toy, Teddy Ruxpin (which gets named checked in the film).  Yet, it is remarkable just how stuck in the past Ted is.  Some may be relieved that finally a film has come along that is brave enough to lampoon the deep-voiced singers of the nineties, but it’s still a good 15 years too late.  A running gag reliant on a 1980 not-so-superhero movie provides a lot of fun, but there’s no denying how completely out of place it is in a 2012 comedy.  On a related note, there are also a handful of cameos that are equal parts brilliant and unexpected.  However, partially due to those, it’s impossible to deny how out-of-date Ted feels throughout.  References to the 9/11 tragedy are about as topical as Ted gets.

Macfarlane does get some mileage out of parodying other films, most notably a Bourne-inspired fight scene with an unexpected outcome.  Had he brought more of this kind of silliness to the film, perhaps some of the hateful humour could have been dropped.  Instead, Ted delivers a few too many off-colour jokes that come at the expense of those who are of a certain race or body type.  In small doses, it’s forgivable, but Ted is unrelenting.  Even jokes that completely miss the mark appear to have made the cut due to being either offensive or stupid enough.  As such, Macfarlane makes a baffling decision to aim for actual drama in the film’s final minutes.  Why Ted suddenly decides to take itself so seriously after 90 minutes of sheer absurdity is anyone’s guess, but it simply doesn’t work.

Those who enjoy films that have fun at the expense of others will surely love Ted.  Even the most PC of cinema-goers would find it difficult to withhold at least a chuckle or two, but while Ted is often very funny indeed, there’s a lot of padding around the shell of a plot that totally flops, as well.  Beyond Macfarlane thrusting a vulgar teddy bear into the spotlight, there’s nothing revolutionary or even memorable happening in Ted. So, while Ted may be funnier than a typical Adam Sandler comedy, it’s certainly no more intelligent than one.  7/10

Ted arrives in UK cinemas 1 August

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