Directed by Seth MacFarlane, written by MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, and Wellesley Wild, starring Macfarlane, Mark Wahlberg, and Mila Kunis - Rated R
Seth MacFarlane has been dominating the animation world on TV for quite some time with shows like “Family Guy” and “American Dad,” but he has not made an effort to cross over into live action very often. With “Ted,” MacFarlane makes his feature film debut as an actor (though he stays off screen by donning a motion capture suit to play Ted), writer, producer, and director. And it turns out that MacFarlane’s humor translates quite well to cinema.
Of course, as with all comedies, I can’t just tell you flat out that this is a funny movie. Some people will find this movie offensive, crude, and downright stupid. Some people (e.g., me) will laugh at almost every weird, crazy minute of this film. I would say that if you enjoy “Family Guy” and all those shows, then you’ll like this. And if you don’t like those shows, then you’ll probably hate Ted. This is very clearly a movie made by the same people. One other warning: you probably shouldn’t let your kids watch this. Even though it is about a talking teddy bear, it is a still an R-rated comedy and it gets pretty raunchy relatively early in the film.
Ted works for multiple reasons. First, the R-rating allows MacFarlane, and fellow writers Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild, to go places they can’t go on TV. Secondly, the constant pop culture referencing style of “Family Guy” is just plain funny. Some may scoff at the “easy” humor of a show or movie that bases its laughs on other works, and maybe they are right. But you know what? I was laughing. And that’s all a comedy has to do for me.
The pop culture stuff can be a blessing and a curse, however. While most of the jokes are broad and the gags are funny no matter what you know, some of them may go over your head. For instance, 80s cult classic Flash Gordon is referenced constantly. I have actually never seen that movie so even though I still laughed at the absurdity of some of the jokes, I didn’t get to enjoy them as much as someone who had seen that film. And Flash Gordon is certainly not the only reference made in this film. The more pop culture trivia you know the better.
There’s no point in getting into other jokes since it will just spoil them, so the other major factor needs to be addressed: the CG. Normally in a comedy you don’t have to worry about special effects very much, but Ted is different since the main character is a walking, talking teddy bear. The CG is great. It’s easy to accept Ted as an actual onscreen character. The performances helped with this quite a bit, as well. MacFarlane is funny enough with his Peter Griffin voice (which is actually referenced, as well), but more importantly, he made a point to wear a motion capture suit and perform with the other actors. That assuredly helped out the other actors, but they still had to convincingly interact with the toy bear and they did a fine job.
As far as comedic performances go, the cast is strong as well. Mark Wahlberg is proving to be well suited for comedy and this role seemed even more tailored to his comedic sensibilities than his previous comedy, The Other Guys. “Family Guy” alum Mila Kunis is fine, also, playing the girlfriend, but getting a bit more to do than you might expect. The rest of the cast is peppered with some familiar faces and a number of very odd and funny cameos.
Overall, Ted is one of the funnier comedies to come out this year, though time will tell if it’s the “funniest” (as the ads would lead you to believe). It certainly ranks in my top three comedies so far along with 21 Jump Street and Wanderlust. Hopefully Seth MacFarlane will keep going after this success and produce more and more quality comedies.
Random Thoughts (SPOILERS)
Okay, just wanted to mention some of my favorite parts down here.
The Ryan Reynolds cameo was so odd and hilarious. His piercing stare cracked me up.
The Sam Jones cameo was great as well, even though I have never seen Flash Gordon. That party scene in general is amazing. Loved the conversation about the Italian restaurant they plan to open.
Giovanni Ribisi and his kid were pretty creepy/funny, but Ribisi's dancing to "I Think We're Alone Now" stole the show. So weird and great.
There are a ton of moments I found hilarious, but I just want to point out one more: Tom Skerritt. It makes almost no sense, but I thought it was the funniest part of the film. The payoff of Matt Walsh kidnapping Skerritt's daughter to force him to hang out is so ridiculous how can you not laugh?