Christmas, Boston, 1985. Seven-year-old John wishes his teddy could come to life and be his best friend forever. A star shoots by, the wish is granted, delight ensues. Which is all very Spielberg. Then the bear works the talk shows, becomes a has-been and turns into a feckless hanger-on as John becomes a thirtysomething delayed adolescent with a taste for bongs and kitsch pop culture. That bit’s very Seth MacFarlane.
Ted is the first feature from the creator of ‘Family Guy’ and ‘American Dad’ and shares their hyper-savvy sense of humour and yen for man-creature buddy dynamics. Though not as nuanced or engaging as Brian the dog from ‘Family Guy’ or Roger the alien from ‘American Dad’, the computer-animated Ted – voiced by MacFarlane – is of the same type, surfing on his share of neuroses but basically the smartest guy in the room. If he were a guy.
Whether you enjoy the movie will depend on how much you like Ted. There are plenty of strong gags of the MacFarlane school, and the funniest moments involve Ted in full, rude flow, either holding forth or engaged in brawling, partying and other unteddybearlike activities. Other than that, there’s little going on. MacFarlane opts for a predictable story in which the adult John (Mark Wahlberg) is under pressure from his girlfriend (Mila Kunis) to get his shit together. She’s fending off a slimeball at work and Ted is being bugged by a fan (Giovanni Ribisi), and that’s it. The plot runs out of steam, squandering its jeopardy and limping towards a cop-out climax with no technical flair to keep things going.
In many ways, ‘Ted’ is reminiscent of Ricky Gervais’s misfiring film vehicles Ghost Town and The Invention of Lying: narcissistically over-reliant on the supposed charms of their leads, these movies are banal as films and mildly objectionable in tone. Women are long-suffering stooges who either crack up at the blokes’ gags or roll their eyes at their childishness – neatly illustrated by a playground insistence on the inherent snigger-worthiness of homosexuality. Sure, MacFarlane, you can make us laugh, but it’s time to grow up. Seriously.