Reviewed by: David Graham

Seth Family Guy McFarlane makes a big-screen splash with a cinematic debut that will no doubt delight his legions of diehard devotees, but the past-puerile humour and obviously derivative material may disappoint the more discerning movie-goer. Matt Stone and Trey Parker proved their doubters very wrong with the outrageously ground-breaking South Park film and Team America, while The Simpsons came somewhat unstuck with their belated Movie; McFarlane has big boots to fill following in the former's footsteps, but has also taken a Matt Groening-style gamble on his reputation in trying to make a transition from TV that could tarnish his work for his established fan-base. Ted isn't particularly memorable - you'll struggle to quote its funniest lines five minutes after it's finished - but it's ruthlessly calculated to appease its target audience, and it certainly won't do McFarlane's career any harm.

Wishing on a star brings a humble teddy bear to life for withdrawn Boston kid John Bennett, giving the toy overnight celebrity status and the boy the friend he's always longed for. As 'grown-ups', Ted's star has waned while John has moved on to a degree with his gorgeous girlfriend Lori, but the time has finally come for the badly behaved bear to move on in order to give the young couple's romance a chance. Taking a job in a supermarket and partying it up in his new pad, Ted still manages to suck John into his slacker lifestyle, leading Lori to make an impossible ultimatum. If John is to keep the girl of his dreams, he has to leave his best bud behind, but the lure of a childhood hero and the covetous advances of a creepy single father could make or break the relationships between all three of them.

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With its visual gimmick lifted from Spielberg's A.I. (but no less charming for that) and with a series of shamelessly pilfered gags veering dangerously close to Scary Movie territory (as in the unflattering spoof-upon-spoof retread of Airplane's Saturday Night Fever piss-take), Ted is an uneven mix of highbrow concept and lowbrow sensibility. Some of the bro-mantic banter is original and amusing while the ironic work-related observations are cleverly subversive; an early skit involving guessing a white trash conquest's name stands out, and there's a bitter ring of truth in the script's depiction of promotions being given to people who act like assholes. There are also some wickedly funny pop culture references dropped into the mix, even if some of the best are undeniably mean-spirited. Most of the time though, McFarlane's content to peddle stoner culture and Seth Rogen-style boorishness, with Ted's retorts resorting too often to politically incorrect offensiveness, directed at everyone from women and homosexuals to a variety of racial stereotypes.

The plot is also abysmally weak and padded to unnecessary length; much of the 'feel-bad' humour is lifted from the far superior Bad Santa and the overwrought climax steals liberally from the Toy Story series. The twin threats of the alluring Mila Kunis and a reliably grotesque Giovanni Ribisi are never really developed into anything surprising, and Mark Wahlberg's appealing everyman routine is stretched to its limits by his ridiculously pathetic character. Many of the more raucous set-pieces never really hit their mark, lacking the unpredictable edginess of Sacha Boren Cohen's work and outstaying their welcome through sheer force of repetition, while Sam Flash Gordon Jones' cameo may be good-natured but it's nowhere near as show-stopping as David Hasselhoff's in Piranha 3DD or Mike Tyson's in The Hangover.

In spite of its potty-mouthed shock tactics, Ted is enjoyable fluff, nothing more, nothing less. The potential for some inspired satire is evident in the imaginative set-up, but the majority of the subsequent action follows too familiarly in the path of its bad taste forebears. McFarlane's vocal performance and the impressively realised bear are the comedic centre-pieces, but they feel too much like a formulaic extension of everything Family Guy, American Dad et al have done to death by now. Ted will no doubt be the biggest comedy of the year and will probably generate a sequel, but it's far from the sort of laugh-a-minute classic that anyone will be returning to in years to come.

Reviewed on: 03 Aug 2012
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A man's friendship with his childhood toy, brought to life by a wish, comes under strain when his girlfriends gets jealous of their bond.
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Director: Seth MacFarlane

Writer: Seth MacFarlane

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane, Joel McHale, Giovanni Ribisi, Sam Jones

Year: 2012

Runtime: 106 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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