Director: Seth MacFarlane
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane, Giovanni Ribisi
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Anyone who enjoys the sharp-witted, knowingly tasteless style of Seth MacFarlane's hit animated TV comedy Family Guy will find his film-directing debut a familiar affair, for better or worse. Like a version of Toy Story tailored to cynical adult viewers, Ted is relentlessly funny, even if the characters and overstuffed plot never really work hard enough to engage any deep emotions.
The action begins in 1985, with the lonely suburban misfit John Bennett desperately wishing for his stuffed teddy bear to become a walking, talking, living friend. Miraculously, his wish is granted. Ted, a foul-mouthed little fur-ball voiced by MacFarlane, becomes John's lifelong best buddy. But their cosy relationship becomes a problem 25 years later when the adult John (Mark Wahlberg) faces a stern ultimatum from his ambitious girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis) to evict the party-loving bear from their shared Boston apartment.
Ted clearly has strong links to MacFarlane's most famous TV creation, Family Guy. After all, he co-wrote the film's script with the animated series' writer-producers, Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild. Both the film and show are grounded in pop culture references and self-mocking celebrity cameos, with the singer Norah Jones and the former Flash Gordon star Sam Jones both doing the honours here. Kunis is a regular vocal cast member on Family Guy, as is MacFarlane himself. At one point, Ted even cracks a self-referential joke about sounding like Family Guy's protagonist Peter Griffin, who is also voiced by MacFarlane. The humour in Ted is not always pitch-perfect, with some scenes slipping too easily into Hollywood's sentimental "bromance" formula. A few characters, notably Ted's trashy girlfriend Tami-Lyn (Jessica Barth) and Lori's sleazy boss Rex (Joel McHale), are crudely drawn caricatures. Many Family Guy episodes score higher in wit, energy and originality.
That said, MacFarlane juggles his multitasking roles as director, writer, vocal artist and motion-capture actor with impressive mental agility. Wahlberg is well cast as an irresponsible but charming man-child, while Kunis makes the most of her thin role. Most importantly, the jokes are plentiful and powerful enough to patch up the film's minor flaws. Ted is deeply silly, but hugely enjoyable.
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