A talking teddy bear is cute, but a teddy bear that swears, drinks, smokes bongs and brings hookers home to party is hilarious. Right?
That's the simple premise behind Ted, the first big-screen effort from Seth MacFarlane, the creator of the hit animated TV series Family Guy and American Dad! It's the same comic paradox that makes Family Guy's diabolical baby Stewie Griffin funny, or Betty White's potty-mouth granny for that matter. We just don't expect to hear such trash talk from the mouths of babes.
But is Ted the raunchy, boundary- crossing adult comedy fans have waited for? Is it Family Guy: The Movie, as many suspect, with Ted just Stewie in teddy bear form? Or is it the Bad Santa of 2012?
Well, yes, yes and no. Yes, MacFarlane delivers exactly what Family Guy fans expect from a live-action movie, complete with crude pop-cultural references and all the sexist, racist, homophobic humour fans will recognise from MacFarlane's brand of juvenile humour. Yes, Ted is basically Stewie Griffin in plush form. He's the life of the party and the best thing about the film. But Ted is no Bad Santa. Perhaps it was never going to be _that _ good.
As a lonely Boston child, John (Bretton Manley) receives a big, plush teddy bear for Christmas and makes a wish that they'll be friends for ever. The next morning - presto! "Ted" is now John's walking, talking best friend. It freaks out John's parents and stuns the world, with Ted becoming an international celebrity.
Twenty-five years later, John (Mark Wahlberg) is a loser and Ted is a washed-up minor celebrity who likes to party. He drinks beer, smokes pot, hires hookers and generally drags John down. After one too many indiscretions, John's girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis) gives him an ultimatum - it's her or the bear.
Holy furball! It's a rom-com! Or more specifically, it becomes a rom-com, with Ted increasingly pushed aside in favour of the romantic plot. It's a cliched plot, too, with the guy having to choose between his best friend and his girlfriend. It feels like an almighty cop-out from MacFarlane, and one used to lure a female audience. But it gives Ted a softer edge and makes it less a raunchy, boundary-crossing adult comedy and more a cushy date movie. Ick!
MacFarlane, who co-writes, directs and voices Ted, even gives Lori a romantic rival in the form of her boss (Joel McHale). The trouble is, every time Ted is off-screen, the film hits a brick wall and stops being funny. But when Ted is on-screen, the politically incorrect jokes fly thick and fast, with one particular sight gag involving Ted, a candy bar and a checkout crossing the line. Movies, TV shows and music from the 1980s come in for a heartfelt skewering and a certain 80s film star makes one of the funnier cameos in recent memory.
Sadly, Ted veers off into a kidnap plot in the latter stages, as a weirdo father (Giovanni Ribisi in full weirdo mode) snatches Ted for his lonely overweight son (yes, there are fat kid jokes. too). Of course, it all brings John's choice between Ted and Lori to a head.
There are as many Family Guy fans as haters out there, and the latter will want to give Ted a wide berth because Ted is pretty much Family Guy: The Movie. Besides, hearing a cute cuddly teddy swear like a sailor is fun at first, but quickly becomes as lifeless as a stuffed teddy bear.
Ted is now screening.