Written and Directed By: Seth MacFarlane
Produced By: Scott Stuber, Seth MacFarlane, John Jacobs, Jason Clark
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane
Edited By: Jeff Freeman
Music By: Walter Murphy
Distributed By: Universal Pictures
Budget: $50 million
Runtime: 106 minutes
I had high hopes for Ted. I am a big fan of Family Guy and Seth MacFarlane and had consistently laughed at the theater and television previews. But as is common with all comedies, you wonder just how many of the best jokes have been put in the trailers leaving another 90 minutes of mysterious unknown. Luckily, there is absolutely no disappointment here. Ted is not only absolutely hilarious from start to finish but it is also impressively directed by first timer MacFarlane, making me not only want a full Family Guy movie but also as much MacFarlane as Fox is willing to give us.
The trailers make the story clear enough, but essentially Ted is this: Wahlberg wishes as a young boy for his teddy bear to come to life and be his only friend; it does, and they remain friends for the next twenty-seven years where they are lazy pot-smokers and all-too-foul-mouthed, but Johnny has a four-year girlfriend (Kunis) who is starting to look for something more out of their relationship and Ted stands in the way of that. It is somewhat a typical romantic comedy – Wahlberg and Kunis fight, break up, and a great conflict involving the thing that tore them apart (Ted) brings them back together. No surprises there, except for the hilarity of a teddy bear named Ted.
Going into Ted, I heard much pre-criticism that it was going to be nothing more than a 90 minute episode of Family Guy where Peter Griffin has been turned into a talking teddy bear. Initially I paid little attention because I, for one, have no problem paying to see a movie-length Family Guy episode. Having seen the film, I can now say this is both right and wrong. One thing definitely wrong is the comparison between Peter Griffin and Ted’s voice. I recently saw MacFarlane do both impressions on Jay Leno and the differences are notable. They are similar, yes, but different all the same. Still, Ted does seem a lot like Family Guy. There are flashbacks and cutaways, it’s scored by the same guy (Walter Murphy), and it’s filled with more pop culture references than I thought possible to cram into a single sixty-seconds. MacFarlane’s ability to land joke after joke and reference after reference without it growing tiring is truly remarkable. The man has a common style of storytelling, but that doesn’t make it any less comedic.
Unlike Zach Galifinakis comedies where Galifinakis is often the only funny element, what makes Ted stand out is that all of it is funny. Ted is the centerpiece, of course – vulgar, sexual in a weird plush toy way; it’s very Freudian. But Wahlberg and Kunis deliver their fair share of antics as well and the supporting cast is wonderful – Joel McHale, Giovanni Ribisi as the villain, and Patrick Warburton in a short but extremely effective side plot involving a surprisingly awesome cameo role. And we could never forget the narration of Patrick Stewart, who is so stately and elegant that just hearing him say a curse word is funny.
Pop culture? Duh! Anyone whose childhood thrived during the 1980s (mine did not) will probably think this movie was made for them. Hint? If you ever watched the Flash Gordon television series, you’ll love this movie. It’s a love song to everything that made MacFarlane who he is, but it’s not all 80s retro hits. It references anything that had happened until filming including a plenty few 2011 jokes, which is impressive enough just with writing. MacFarlane has a very distinctive style of comedy, like all comedians, but you have to give the man credit for his sheer ability to remember so much pop culture and then manage to make it fit into a line of jokes that makes sense in context. It’s beautiful. It’s also hilarious.
There’s not much to say about Ted beyond the fact that it is funny; very funny. It’s not ground-breaking storytelling or the next Best Picture winner. You’ll think about Family Guy a lot, but who cares? It took less than sixty seconds into the film for me to start laughing and I continued laughing until the final sixty seconds. It’s filled with quotes that I will repeat in random situations of my own in the same way The Hangover causes a brief schism in its own pop culture. It’s a fun ride that I without question find re-watchable. And re-watch it, I shall.