Ahead of tomorrow’s UK release of Ted, we had Patrick Dane take a look at the film for us. This was his more or less immediate response.
I was going to ‘sleep on it’ before I wrote this review but then realised how that would be pointless. The whole point of ‘sleeping on it’ is to gain some kind of distance and clarity on what you have seen but a film like Ted is often better enjoyed in the moment.
It’s about the time you had in the cinema and the fuzzy feeling [pun 1] you get walking home aftwerwards. Ted might be utter fluff [pun 2 – alright, I’ll stop] and you probably won’t be puzzling over it for that long.
But it has a strong heart and some real spirit to it. And it isn’t devoid of intelligence and thinking either. It’s like a nice big portion of candy floss wrapped around a motivational poster.
John, played by Mark Wahlberg, was once a troubled 8 year old living a lonely childhood until, one Christmas night, his wish comes true and his teddy bear comes to life.
Thus begins the story of Ted. Obviously, seeing as he’s the world’s first talking plush toy, voiced by co-writer and director Seth MacFarlane, Ted has a brief stint of celebrity. Then, as the fantastic opening monologue narrated by Patrick Stewart suggests, “Eventually, no one gives a fuck.”
Cut forward 27 years and Ted and John are still ‘thunder buddies forever’ except both sit around watching Flash Gordon and smoking pot to the growing dismay of John’s girlfriend of four years, Lori, played by Mila Kunis. Tensions rise, fights are had, yahdeeyahdeeyada. You can basically figure out the rest of the plot, beat for beat from there.
But Ted is nothing if not an exercise in how far you can push a good concept. It’s an example something I like to describe as the Avatar effect: taking a tried and tested storyline and using it as a solid base to rest more interesting little nuggets on.
We know its like Pocahontas in space! That doesn’t mean it lacks ideas or originality.
And it really isn’t very hard to figure out what Ted is trying to say. It’s a story of a 35 year old man still hanging out with the teddy bear from when he was a child. Hell, that Patrick Stewart opening monologue even spells out that this is a story about rejecting your childhood to become an adult.
Ted is about the young men of today whose line between childhood and manhood has become very blurry. The Gen Xers (or Yers or Zers depending on who you talk too) are a generation that grew up watching Flash Gordon, playing Video Games and eating sugar loaded cereal. Now that we are adults, we watch Flash Gordon, play video games and eat sugar loaded cereals.
I am certainly in this group. The world no longer demands us to be men.
It’s no mistake Lori is portrayed as a consummate professional in an upwardly mobile position while John is stuck treading water at a a car dealership.
To an extent, Seth Macfarlane himself is part of this demographic, or at least very sympathetic to them. It results in a sort of sincerity that makes this quite a personal picture.
Many people fear that the humour could be too close to Family Guy or American Dad‘s and, of course, that is a founded fear. (Minimal) asides, base humour and irreverent pop culture digs (including two of the best cameos of the year) are present and correct. There are sections that you could animate that Seth Macfarlane style and it wouldn’t be out of place in his toon shows at all.
I enjoy that brand of comedy so I had a ball with all of it but I am sure that plenty will have a good time with Ted even if they don’t click with MacFarlane’s gags. Many more jokes hit than missed in my audience.
Perhaps surprising is how much heart the film has. There is a bit of slowdown towards the end and the film almost runs out of steam but it could have crossed the line on sheer goodwill at that point.
Since the story is so recognisable, it is easy to see through to the flimsy foundations when the jokes don’t hit or the chemistry is somehow not working. And then the ending is some what drawn out as a result of the film reaching a natural closing point and then continuing for something like another 20 minutes. This section largely centres around Giovanni Ribisi giving a creep-tacular performance that is fun but hardly serves the bigger story.
MacFarlane and his collaborators almost spark up something here by pitting a man who is a 35 year old child against a man whose dad denied him a childhood, but it never really clicks into place properly.
Ted is a Rom-Com-Cum-Bromance that is in many ways not too different to many others, but what really distinguishes it from the pack, besides the foul mouthed teddy bear, is that the film has a whale of a time digging into its subtext.
This is MacFarlane at his best and is quite a strong argument for more live action features from the man.
Yeah, keep it up MacFarlane. Further down this road, we say. Further and further away from where you started.
Ted has already been a smash hit in the US and will open in the UK on Wednesday August 1st.