Ted – ★★★★

SYNOPSIS: In 1985, youngster John Bennett receives a teddy bear for Christmas but makes a wish for it to come to life. That wish comes true for John as Teddy becomes a walking, talking bear who soon becomes a celebrity following his surprise emergence into life. Fast forward to 2012, and a 35 year-old John (Mark Wahlberg) and his fluffy companion (Seth MacFarlane) choose to spend their time hanging around together smoking pot and watching Flash Gordon. This irritates John’s gorgeous girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis) who tires of Ted’s influence on her boyfriend’s life which is affecting their relationship. John realises that he must make sacrifices if he wants to grow-up for Lori’s sake but Ted’s interference leads to more problems for the couple. Soon the situation for all three changes when Ted is kidnapped by creepy fan Donny (Giovanni Ribisi) and it is left up to his human friends to save him.

Fans of the hit comedy TV series Family Guy will know only too well that it ‘seems today that all you see is violence in movies and sex on TV’. But with the dark-humoured show becoming a major hit over the last decade, creator Seth MacFarlane has now moved onto the big-screen to try and replicate that success with his directional debut Ted. It is his creative involvement in the film which becomes crucial as his contribution to the writing AND voice-work sees him let rip at various topics including life, love and racism.

At the same time, another of his Family Guy traits has been the cultural references and cutaways which also occur in the film, which range from John and Ted’s obsession with Flash Gordon (and his acting counterpart Sam Jones) to the hysterical Susan Boyle reference during a car chase scene. MacFarlane also pulls no punches with his humour when it comes to poking fun at people or pulling off the crude jokes, such as a scene where Ted tries to catch the attention of an attractive colleague at work by making sexual remarks in the most obscene manner. As it’s an R-rated film, MacFarlane can get away with things like that!

It is his casting of Mark Wahlberg which proves a bold move in the acting department as the straight-laced actor shows his comical side as his charming yet naive character fails to recognise the problems of being a middle-aged man whose best mate is a talking bear. The exquisite Mila Kunis (the voice of ugly and ridiculed character Meg Griffin on Family Guy) is thankfully not wasted here as her career girl Lori shows heart in her relationship with John despite Ted’s interfering and works well alongside Wahlberg in their surprisingly believable romance.

Supporting actors Josh McHale and Giovanni Ribisi convey sliminess to their roles, with McHale playing Lori’s cunning boss and Ribisi having fun as the weird stalker Donny who enjoys dancing to Tiffany amongst other creepy things. Family Guy fans can also embrace MacFarlane’s influence in getting his colleagues from the show to pop up, like Alex Borstein (Lois) and Patrick Warburton (Joe) as John’s mother and his possibly gay colleague, respectively. The use of Patrick Stewart’s soothing British accent for narrating duties is also welcoming, as he provides the charm and cynicism when telling the story of Ted in the beginning and end segments.

However, one thing that can’t be helped with MacFarlane’s comedy is how far he’ll go to offend people, whether it be Jews, Blacks or Mexicans. While I am not one to be appalled at his grim humour (he’s done far worse in Family Guy!), there are bound to be many who are, especially if they haven’t seen any of his cartoon shows prior to this. At times, the swearing from Ted himself can be tiresome, and it’s something to be expected from most R-rated comedies nowadays. Some jokes in the film also fall a little flat, which is a problem for non-American audiences who won’t always get the humour, especially when most of the jokes are aimed at Americans. And of course, the plot is rather predictable at times and falters to the clichés of most romcoms, especially when our two leads split up but the fall-out is never really serious and leads to a typically cheesy Hollywood ending. As for the Family Guy influence, MacFarlane’s only unnecessary inclusion from that show is of composer Walter Murphy, whose cheerful, life-is-wonderful score is too similar with the cartoon’s music and feels out of place for a live-action film.

VERDICT: MacFarlane’s crude on-screen debut is not one to recommend to the kids even if it does have a cuddly bear in it but despite some hit-and-miss gags, it still delivers thanks to the creator’s vulgar approach to life as seen on his hit animated shows. Thunder buddies forever!

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