Ted, Nationwide August 3, Cert: 16, Three stars
Movie review by GARETH NAUGHTON
FOR a long time filmmakers in Hollywood were in thrall to the high concept.
Films only got the greenlight if they could be explained in a simple sentence.
Snakes on a Plane: Need I say more.
That disappeared in the last few years as comic book adaptations overwhelmed the box office, but it is back in a big way with Ted.
What happens if your teddy bear comes to life and never leaves?
It is a clever idea and in the hands of someone like Stephen Spielberg – in his hey day — it would have made for a sweet and endearing family friend.
Ted, however, is a different beast. It comes from Seth MacFarlane, the man who brought you Family Guy, one of the funniest and most wilfully offensive shows on television.
So this summer’s surprise box office hit is another adult-orientated comedy in the vein of Bridesmaids and The Hangover.
But it stars a talking teddy bear and he is a foul-mouthed, ganja-smoking bear with a penchant for hookers. As creations go, Ted is genius.
Does the concept stretch enough to support a 100-minute movie? I am not so sure about that.
The film starts in the 1980s when a young boy goes to bed one night wishing his teddy bear was alive.
And lo, he wakes up the next morning and the bear beside him is walking and talking.
Ted becomes a star but he never forgets the boy who brought him to life. Unfortunately.
John (Mark Wahlberg) is now a man in his mid-30s with a bitter old has-been showbiz bear for a best friend.
The two boys sit on the couch and watch TV shows and movies from the 1980s while getting stoned off their bin, much to chagrin of John’s girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis).
When things start to get really serious between the couple, she wants Ted to move out of John’s apartment and get a life of his own. This does not go as swimmingly as she would like.
If you are a fan of Family Guy you are going to out and out love this. No question. Ted is basically Peter Griffin in furry form and with a much more colourful grasp of the language. I don’t just mean the voice (that was inevitable, and MacFarlane has the good grace to reference the similarity during a karaoke sequence that goes on a shade too long).
The things that he says are very much in-keeping with the Family Guy patriarch and it is difficult to shake off the feeling that you are watching a twisted and elongated episode of that show.
Just like the television show, the script is peppered with pop culture references — Wahlberg dancing at a club in 2008 and shouting Chris Brown can do no wrong; Ted tells John and Lori that Adam Sandler’s Jack and Jill is basically unwatchable — but while that might work for now, it runs the risk of very quickly dating the film.
The problem here though is not in the comedy. This is far funnier than any Hangover movie you pretend to like.
There are moments of outrageously humour that will give you genuine belly ache. The acting is spot on as well.
MacFarlane has been playing Peter Griffin for years so Ted is second nature to him, but Wahlberg is once again brilliant in a comedy role that forces him to take a back seat to a more outwardly funny co-star.
He did it fantastically well in The Other Guys and Date Night and he has once again done the business in Ted.
Although Kunis’s character is probably the most underwritten, she smartly does not play the bitch card. You can totally see where Lori’s coming from and you want her to get her way as much as John and Ted.
There is a major problem with the storyline, however.
There is no getting away from the fact that this is a film hinged on a very good high concept — a talking teddy bear — which then gets latched onto the kind of plot that we haven’t seen since 1987. Seriously, the last third of the film (which is far less funny) is lifted from any number of crap action films that you care to mention. It’s lazy and derivative.
Ted can be genuinely hilarious but it fails to live up to its promise.
See Gareth’s reviews of Brave and Diary Of A Wimpy Kid in Downtown, free with Thursday’s Cork Evening Echo