The three years I spent studying Media & Communications at Goldsmiths College consisted of eating copious amounts of Caribbean take-away food, drinking cheap pints of ‘
StrongWeakbow’, Foucauldian Power/Knowledge theory and, most crucial to this most laborious film review, late night dates with BBC Three’s beautiful news bulletin reader Tasmin Lucia-Khan, entwined with episodes of Seth MacFarlane’s Family Guy. If you haven’t seen her, you should. If you haven’t seen Family Guy, then keep it that way. Shown on America’s oligarchical right-wing broadcaster Fox, it’s ostensibly a boisterous, annoyingly addictive sketch show masquerading as an animated sitcom. It’s fucking massive and has made MacFarlane a very happy, very smutty, and very rich man. So, what will his venture into the big screen bring? Much of the horrid same, unfortunately.
Ted is an irreverent buddy comedy about man-child John (Mark Wahlberg) who, after a whimsical childhood wish, finds a friend for life in the cuddly, potty mouthed and pot smoking toy teddy bear Ted (voiced conspicuously by someone with a striking vocal resemblance to Peter Griffin). Perpetual slackers, it’s all becoming too much, or too little, for John’s girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis) who tries to convince him to put down the cuddly toys and cuddle her instead. I mentioned this is Mila Kunis, right? Yeah, hardly a tough call.
Much like his cartoon creations, nothing is off-limits for (supposed) comedic scrutiny, with Ted spewing many jabs at Jews, gays, blacks, Asians, Mexicans, Muslims and otherwise. With so much effort put into these mostly unsatisfying minority jabs and outmoded eighties-pastiches (Flash Gordon cameo? So topical). MacFarlane forgets to make his characters funny by their own, whiter-than-white merit. There’s also a lack of narrative drive in the script, with an underdeveloped hostage subplot illustrating how MacFarlane’s is more interested in focusing on the here and now, rather than the overall picture.
Another colossal problem with Ted is the furry bear itself. Whether you like or loathe him, there’s very little in the ensemble characters to admire or enjoy. Mila Kunis’ Lori is the underdeveloped eye candy filling in the middle of the bromance; Community‘s Joel McHale as her sleazy boss Rex is obvious plot fodder, and Giovanni Ribisi is mawkish as the ‘wacky’ teddy bear stalker Donny. However, amongst all the tripe, the most pleasing element of this nasty little critter film is the casting of Mark Wahlberg. In a role which would usually be deadwood, the beefy actor elevates the role with expertly crafted comic timing and his natural Boston, drawling charm. Moving away from unintentionally making us laugh in ill-fated nature thrillers, Marky Mark certainly has a bright funny future destined ahead of him.
Even with a torrent of problems, there’s still something devilishly transfixing by Ted. Just like those hours I spent with Tasmin and the Griffins, the film enables you to turn into an absolute slouch for a little over ninety minutes, where you can switch of your brain and be hypnotised by the ugly-shot, petulant imagery on screen. That also makes reviewing the film incredibly difficult, as you feel like you’re considering it with more brain power than it deserves.
With Seth MacFarlane given the space and financial backing to break into the big screen, it’s frustrating to see him produce something so safe and self-serving. When all the box office dust has settled and the cash has been counted, it’s unlikely that Ted would have done anything more than preach to the dirty choir.
Now, who wants to hear my Stewie impression?