There is something very familiar about Ted, and yet the film is completely unique. Family Guy creator Seth Macfarlane’s directorial debut tells the story of little John Bennett, a lonely kid with no friends who wishes his Teddy Bear would come to life. When John’s wish comes true, Ted is suddenly reminiscent of a dozen other movies about the magic of little boy’s wishes, but Macfarlane takes the story in a hilarious new direction by telling the story of what happens 20 years after one of these miracles, when you’re an adult and in a relationship and your best friend is still a magical teddy bear who likes to sit around and get high all day.
I’ve been a fan of Macfarlane for years, always enjoying his TV series Family Guy, and to a lesser extent American Dad. He has a real talent for taking comedy to extreme, controversial, and offensive levels in a way that honestly strives to not alienate his audience. The humor of Ted is very much along these lines with many jokes referencing and poking fun at popular culture; most of which are warranted, but I found a last minute cheap shot at Brendan Routh (Superman Returns) to be uncalled for.
I didn’t realize when I saw this in the theater that Seth Macfarlane did the motion capture for Ted himself. The special features are full of footage of the new director in a motion capture suit, acting out scenes as Ted. This is particularly great because it allowed for the cast to do alternate takes of scenes, and polish jokes on set rather than having the scripted dialogue recorded months before production began. This means that the unrated version of the film has a lot of potential to be even more outrageous.
The cast here is really great. I always enjoy Mark Wahlberg, but he is more or less the straight man here, with few actual jokes. The way he plays off of Ted and creates a genuinely human relationship an animated teddy bear is very impressive. Probably the best performance in the film comes from Mila Kunis. As John’s girlfriend, she asks him to have Ted move out into his own apartment. It would be easy for this character to come off as flat and mean and jealous, but Kunis makes Lori a genuine part of this little family and her want to live alone with her boyfriend never feels forced or mean spirited.
Giovanni Ribisi’s performance is note worthy as well. Ribisi plays a very strange character who has been obsessed with Ted since he magically came to life and became famous. Throughout the film he tries to buy Ted from John for his son. The years of obsession have made this character psychotic to the point that you’re never quite sure what he’s going to do next.
My one big criticism of the film is the constant reference to Flash Gordon. Maybe it’s just because I had never seen Flash Gordon, and thus couldn’t relate to this idea that it shaped John and Ted’s childhood, but even so, it becomes a too large aspect of the film and distracts from other things that I find much more interesting.
Special features include audio commentary with Seth Macfarlane and Mark Wahlberg, alternate takes and a gag reel, and deleted scenes. Given the life-like nature of the Ted character, it’s important to see this one on Blu-ray if possible.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD from 20th Century Fox on December 11