Thursday 6 September 2012

Ted (2012) - Seth MacFarlane

Family Guy has Peter Griffin and his dog Brian.  Ted has John Bennett and his teddy bear...Ted.

And that's just where the similarities begin.  Seth MacFarlane is not only the creator of both, but is the voice of Brian and Ted; Mila Kunis features in both; both are accompanied by light-hearted jazz scores.  Ted even references Family Guy specifically – at times literally using the same voices (look out for Stewie and Peter), at others referencing with more subtlety (the hotel fight an obvious link to the infamous, recurring chicken fight).

It’s the comedy style that most resembles the cartoon.  The script features the same essence of dry wit, the joke structure building towards the final, shocking punchlines.  No stone is left unturned, with bad taste jokes on race, religion, sexuality, drugs and more.  It even includes the same cutaways and oddball, random humour.  The story is essentially Family Guy meets Toy Story – as a lonely eight year old, John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) wishes for his teddy to be real.  Thirty-odd years later, John and Ted are still best friends, but competition for John’s affections arises with girlfriend Lori (Kunis).  Will John ever grow up? 

The story, as with most Family Guy episodes, is merely a vehicle for the jokes.  After follow-up show American Dad and spin-off The Cleveland Show, the world of film was the next logical step for MacFarlane – Ted a cartoon come to life.  For fans of his cartoons, there is a comforting familiarity in Ted and simultaneously a lack of fresh ideas.  It might be fun to spot the crossovers, but Ted isn’t quite as whacky as the Griffin family.  For those unfamiliar with MacFarlane’s work, the film will seem all the more shocking.

This being a film, there is, of course, a greater emphasis on story.  As a result, the jokes don’t come as thick and fast as you’d expect and the film’s denouement aims towards fluffy heart, which just seems too wet in comparison to the humour.  Whilst the odd joke is aimed specifically at American audiences, MacFarlane has honoured the medium with film references aplenty – from Indiana Jones to E.T, Aliens and more.

And when the jokes do come, they’re positively hysterical and will have you howling with laughter.  The derogative style of black humour may not be to everyone’s taste, but those who like a bit of outrageous comedy will come away with aching faces.  The humour is supported by some great performances, from Wahlberg and Kunis especially.  The real star, though, is MacFarlane himself – a multi-talented comedian, scriptwriter, director and voice actor.  The end result is probably the funniest film of the year – you’ll never look at a teddy bear in the same way again.