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Seth MacFarlane, the mastermind behind Family Guy and American Dad ventures out from animated television into live action with his directorial debut feature film Ted. Never far from controversy, MacFarlane has seen his show’s cancelled and restarted more than any other person in American television, yet one thing remains clear, he has a keen eye for the satirical, the cultural and above all else, the socially inappropriate and with Ted, he doesn’t hold back.
John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) is a 35-year-old man who still lives with Ted (MacFarlane) his childhood teddy bear, who was brought to life upon a wish 26 years earlier. John has been dating his girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis) for 4 years, but their relationship begins to suffer because of the connection that John has with Ted. As John continues to try and fail to separate himself from Ted, his relationship suffers more and he is soon put into a position where he must decide whether to continue living with his best friend or the woman he loves.
The basic plot of Ted is reminiscent to a host of other films, notably Shaun of the Dead in a sub-genre of comedy known as the ‘bromance.’ The struggle of grown man-children to come to terms with the pressure to become adults, while fast becoming cliched, is mined successfully by MacFarlane and company for the majority of Ted. There are trademark Family Guy-esque flashbacks, pop culture references (Flash Gordon providing the majority of the real laughs) and some surprising and hilarious cameos from a variety of celebrities, including a truly hilarious opening and closing narration by Patrick Stewart.
Yet it relies on the chemistry between MacFarlane, Wahlberg and Kunis for it’s success and in these three central characters it really finds its feet. Kunis is fast becoming one of the most likable female screen presences working today, while Wahlberg continues to prove a great knack for comedy performances, which far out-shadow his often stumbling dramatic or action hero personas. But it is MacFarlane voicing Ted who is the real star of the show and with his incredibly recognisable style and delivery keeps the laughs coming. There are moments where the plot becomes baggy and misguided, like the secondary story involving Donny (Giovanni Ribisi) trying to kidnap Ted, but even this isn’t without funny moments.
As with Family Guy, some of Ted‘s jokes miss the mark and while the final third descends into cliched boredom, there is more than enough cutting humour and ‘offend-all-peoples’ comedy to keep fans of his TV shows laughing all the way home. There is more close-to-the-bone commentary in this than any other comedy in the last decade, with constant jokes around racism, sexism and even 9/11. Yet under the sure guidance of the master of the inappropriate, Ted soars, even if it’s prone to bouts of misfiring jokes.