Films: Ted

IT WAS only a matter of time before Seth McFarlane, the creative mind behind Family Guy, American Dad and The Cleveland Show would move on to face a new challenge in feature films. His first film, Ted which he has written, starred in and directed, continues to play with the various traits that have come to define his other projects – the childish and incompetent lead, the anthropomorphised character which, in this case, is an obnoxious, vulgar teddy bear. Even most of the respective cast have played parts in McFarlane’s various other series. However, despite the similar blue-print, Ted yields a lot of well written set pieces and plenty of great comedy.

Starting in a suburb of Boston in the mid 80s, John Bennet, a lonely child, receives a teddy bear for Christmas which he names Ted (McFarlane) and wishes that it could talk back to him and become an actual friend. A falling star (or Jesus, if you’re from Georgia) grants life to Ted. After the miracle is revealed, Ted becomes a celebrity, all the while remaining John’s best friend and “Thunder Buddy”.

I was initially sceptical about Ted. Family Guy is suffering the same fate as The Simpsons in that it has become much more self-aware and as a consequence less adventurous, thus working itself into a creative rut with each season. I also thought that The Cleveland Show was boring and pointless, seemingly made up of every joke that wasn’t good enough to be put into Family Guy. However, Ted surprised me in just how funny it was. McFarlane definitely plays to his strengths in regards to the screenplay. The humour is juvenile, but also very near the knuckle. It works very well regarding the characters. There is a scene towards the end which was definitely one of those “I really shouldn’t be laughing but god I can’t help myself” moments, which will still have you giggling long after nty-five years later, Ted’s fame has long since died off and he and John (Mark Walberg) reside in a small apartment smoking hash, drinking beer and watching their favourite film, Flash Gordon. John’s girlfriend of four years, Lori (Mila Kunis), is eager for John to move on with his life but thinks that he needs to stop living with Ted to do so. To appease her, John persuades Ted to get a job at the local grocery store and to move into his own apartment. However, John keeps finding himself pulled away from his work and spending time with Ted, much to Lori’s annoyance. Ted also finds himself stalked by Donny (Giovanni Ribisi) who obsessed over him as a child and wishes to have him for his destructive son (Aedin Mincks).

Ted’s best trait, and a testament to McFarlane’s great screenplay, is simply the fact that it’s never boring despite the typical girlfriend vs. best friend story. It flows well and never seems to run out of material which is well delivered by the cast. It’s a confident, well-made cinematic debut from one of America’s most renowned comedy writers.