In his feature-length and live-action debut, Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane had the chance to do something different and grab a new audience. With Ted, the premise of a teddy bear brought to life in a non-fantasy setting could intrigue, however it’s the human sections that are uninteresting. Macfarlane maintains his usual approach, so the story’s a means for pop-culture jokes of varying obscurity levels. Whether you like MacFarlane’s prior work is likely to decide if you like Ted.
30 years after a childhood wish brought John Bennett’s (Mark Wahlberg) teddy bear Ted (Seth MacFarlane) to life, they’ve remained best friends. But John’s girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis) wants more from their relationship, and thinks Ted holds him back.
It’s easy to forget that Ted’s computer generated and wasn’t there on location, the effects that bring him to life are that good. Similar to Toy Story (1995), it’s not difficult to accept odd motions from a CG doll, when compared to CG humans, and it helps avoid any uncanny valley weirdness. Seeing Ted as an individual gets aided by him providing more personality and energy than those on-screen that didn’t come to life from a shooting star. Unfortunately MacFarlane does the voice for Ted by mostly doing the voice of the dad in Family Guy; it’s so obvious that, possibly to pre-empt criticism of the similarity, there’s a cheap joke to that effect.
The attempts to make the human characters seem alive, not so good. Wahlberg has conviction, still he isn’t the most skilled comedian; he’s understated and lets others spring off him, here it’s a bear making inconsistent references and Mila Kunis, who he shares little chemistry with. The dull romance scenes, filled with predictable dialogue, make it hard to believe in them as a couple (and that’s from a film that allows you to accept a teddy bear that’s alive, for some reason) and it merely adds to the excessive filler. The shameless padding reaches its nadir when Giovanni Ribisi stalks Ted, leading to redundant action scenes lacking any excitement or visual flare. Though, if you’ve an interest in the 1980 Flash Gordon film then you may get some enjoyment from a few of the random detours.
By falling back on familiar habits, and not showing that he has the skills or maturity for longer work, Ted is more of the same from MacFarlane, it feels like one of his cartoons overstretched, except now he can have more swearing. The bear may seem to belong there; the problem is that he’s a regular character in a film of unlikeable characters you don’t care for. Ted’s probably intended to shock, but it’s just playing it as safe as can be.