Animation juggernaut Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy, American Dad, The Cleveland Show) makes his big screen writing, directing and voice-acting debut with Ted, a live action comedy about a thirty-five year old man-child named John (Mark Wahlberg; The Fighter) whose best friend — a foul-mouthed, pot-smoking teddy bear (voiced by MacFarlane) — is wreaking havoc on his romantic relationship with the beautiful Lori (Mila Kunis; Black Swan). If MacFarlane’s pop culturally obsessed, crude equals funny, drive-the-joke-into-the-ground brand of comedy has worked for you in the past, then Ted should have you in stitches. If it hasn’t, then your reaction should be equally predictable. And full disclosure: I can’t stand him.
If you’re a MacFarlane fan, then you should probably read a fans review. Comedy is hugely subjective, and when it comes to this guy’s sense of humour, I just don’t understand the hype. In the case of Ted, you’ve got a somewhat amusing premise – a magically animated childhood toy who swears like a sailor and smokes like Cheech & Chong – that just can’t sustain a feature film. And outrageous the film is not, no matter how hard it tries. F-bombs and gay jokes aren’t shocking if they’re in frequent supply; Ted is crude and obnoxious from the moment the opening credits conclude, and while of course the sheer volume of gags ensures that some of them land, the comedy is far more miss than hit.
The yucks that do hit home, meanwhile, almost always rely on the skewering of pop culture. Which is fine, as long MacFarlane is taking the piss out of tried and true cultural touch stones (a sequence lampooning Flash Gordon is probably the highlight of the film.) But how well are gags about Jack & Jill or Taylor Lautner really going to age? God willing, in five years, nobody will remember who Taylor Lautner even is.
The humour isn’t the only place where Ted is seriously lacking. The two’s company, three’s a crowd premise feels extraordinarily familiar, and neither relationship – John and Lori, or John and his bear – explores territory we haven’t seen before. Mila Kunis plays her part as best she can, but Lori is less a character and more a thing for John to have, lose and then have again (his dilemma – stop acting like a prick or lose his beautiful, loving, down-to-earth girlfriend – is a far cry from a sympathetic one). The mawkish morals the film tries to impart about love and friendship, meanwhile, feel like they belong in the kid’s film Ted is at other points trying to parody.
Fluctuating between crass and sentimental without being particularly impressive at either, Ted wears out its welcome very, very fast.