He has the body of a Care-Bear and a mouth like Peter Griffin. He is Ted and yes he is real.
TED is the live-action directorial debut of Family Guy creator/lead voice actor Seth McFarlane. The premise to McFarlane's first feature film is just as ridiculous, if not more, as the on-again-off-again TV show that made him famous. The story goes a little like this: loner kid named John wishes his Christmas present, a stuffed teddy bear named Ted, was real so he could have a friend. Wish is granted, Ted becomes real. Flash-forward to present day, John (now a 35 year old Mark Wahlberg) and Ted (MacFarlane) are still inseparable, and both living together with John's long-time girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis) in downtown Boston. John's relationship with his real-life teddy bear is starting to put a strain on his and Lori's future together. Enter conflict and high jinx.
Now before I get into why TED wasn't as funny as the trailers made it out to be, if the 1.5 stars above weren't a dead giveaway, lets get one thing straight. Ted is real okay. He is not a hallucination, he is not an alien, he is not a ghost possessing a children's toy. He is real. I've already heard people upset or confused about the film's farfetched premise of a stuffed animal with a mind of its own and thought it looked stupid. Well MacFarlane was going for farfetched and stupid so relax. The problem is MacFarlane was also going for funny but never quite hit that mark. Sure TED has its comedic moments, and even some side-splitting laugh out loud ones, but as a whole the movie is just one great big missed opportunity.
Just judging from both the red band and green band trailer TED looked to one of the funniest and most promising comedies of the whole year. The story was fresh, the cast is funny, and the R-rated dialogue is hysterically well executed. Unfortunately for comedies like TED sometimes these trailers can also be, what I like to call, a double-edged-advertisement (because DEA would be too confusing). These types of advertisements utilize the best moments/scenes of the film and/or give away too much in trying to lure a larger audience at the box-office. Using a couple of highlights or standout scenes is typical trailer material during a film's marketing but finding the balance between 'tease' and 'too much' is important for any genre. Again, unfortunately comedies are usually the worst movie genre to fall victim to those types of double-edged-advertisements because they essentially are giving away punchlines, making the jokes fell like sitcom re-runs during the feature film. What normally saves comedies from their overexposure or their lost element of comical surprise is, well to put it simply, for them to just be a good movie. TED disappointedly isn't.
In addition to MacFarlane voicing the central character Ted himself, Wahlberg & Kunis lead the film's small cast. Wahlberg works just fine as the lazy stoner John, and MacFarlane's delivery is good most of the time, but Kunis is one of the film's biggest problems. She is never used to her full potential. Kunis has proven she is much more than looks or Kelso's annoyingly loud girlfriend since her transfer to the big screen in recent years. She was hilarious in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Friends With Benefits, and even in her short cameo in Date Night. In TED Kunis isn't even used gratuitously for her looks (kind of refreshing considering her 1D part), she simply is just there to be Wahlberg's love interest that gets in between him and his teddy bear at times. Kunis was no doubtly cast because of her working with MacFarlane on Family Guy and other projects like Robot Chicken, but for some reason he foolishly didn't give her anything to do here. The lack of Kunis is huge but it isn't the sole reason why TED doesn't work, it's also partly due to the odd secondary characters and random cameos.
Typically some of the funniest moments in great comedies come from secondary characters and/or random cameos. Examples like Rick Moranis's small part in Ghostbusters or Chris Farley and Robert Patrick's cameos in Wayne's World just to bring up some classic favourites of mine. TED comes out of left field with some of its with cameos like jazz singer Nora Jones or small bit characters played by Seinfeld's Patrick Warburton and Smallville's Laura Vandervoot; none of whom were anywhere close to funny. Apart from one pretty good extended cameo from a solid D-lister actor (who I won't spoil) the rest of the minor characters are just like Kunis, underused. Joel McHale plays Lori's boss, Rex, for all of 5 minutes, who is basically a version of his Community's Jeff Winger just without his study group conscience. And finally a very strange performance by Giovanni Ribsi, that I won't even bother getting into to round out the crazy.
I'm the farthest thing from a Family Guy fan yet I can still respect MacFarlane for his creative abilities; when he isn't going for the quick laugh. There is one moment in the film where MacFarlane is trying to give the story some genuine heart but you can't sympathize with his characters because 5 minutes earlier one of those same characters was just blatantly blurting out three different offensive and racist 9/11 jokes. Even in his digital form I think MacFarlane was blinded by his own spotlight as one of the leads to properly direct what could have been a very smart and funny film. Sadly in the end TED only has enough laughs to fill an SNL sized sketch or two but nothing closed to a full length feature.
Andrew Burns loves film and comics, and can be found writing about when those worlds converge. You can follow him on Twitter at @myAndrewBurns.