TED. Starring Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Joel McHale, Giovanni Ribisi, Patrick Warburton, Matt Walsh, Jassica Barth. Voiced by Seth MacFarlane. Directed by Seth MacFarlane. Rated MA 15+ (Strong sexual references, coarse language). 106 minutes.
Yes, this is the comedy where a teddy bear, a little boy’s toy, comes alive after his owner wishes he could. It would be interesting to read the pitch that the producers offered to the money backers – would they have believed that you could make a money-making movie with this premiss? And would they have believed that Ted would grow up along with John, the little boy? And that Ted would be accepted by everyone, become something of a media celebrity and appear on the Johnny Carson show?
Somebody believed it could be a success because here it is – and will be a box-office success. Writer-director (and voice of Ted), Seth McFarlane has had the courage of his convictions and gone full steam ahead.
It begins to make us laugh right from the start, with Patrick Stewart doing a sonorous voiceover, intoning the story and then landing us with some deadpan jokes – which he does throughout the film.
But, when Ted grows up, he must imagine he is Seth Rogen or some of those characters in stoner comedies like Pineapple Express. He takes easily to drugs. He has a four letter mouth. And he has a fairly sleazy attitude towards sex. This is played for laughs, making many audiences (including this reviewer) laugh despite themselves. It’s in the vein of Sacha Baron Cohen jokes – you don’t at first believe you have heard what you heard, and then you realise some satirical points are being made.
The writing, allowing for the crass, is often clever and carries the comedy. We are amused by Ted even though we might not necessarily like living with him. The film also works because of Mark Wahlberg’s performance. He is the grown-up (well not quite grown-up) John. His acting with the bear is completely convincing. He plays it straight and it works. So does Mila Kunis as John’s girlfriend who wants John to become more adult and make a decision about love and friendship.
There are quite a number of funny references to movies and actors, from ET to James Franco (who has appeared several times as a stoner). The main references and clips are from the 1980 Buck Rogers – and Sam Jones, the star, turns up at a party and in an offbeat cameo at the end.
Ted starts as cuddly, develops into a slacker, then, of course, tries to do some right things for John. Funny how such a premise as a live bear alive and well in New York City actually works.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out July 5, 2012.