This has happened to all of us at least once. You’re a little kid having fun with your friends on the playground then out of nowhere, another kid shows up and does something incredibly stupid like throw your tennis ball on the roof or pee into the sandbox. And when you all begin to hurl insults at this kid for his lack of intelligence or intuition or appreciation for Emilio Estevez (that’s something you can be teased about right?), he kind of just shrugs and goes, “Yeah, so what?” No matter how many times you tell this kid he’s an idiot, he stands there unfazed with a goofy grin.
Some men just want to watch the world burn.
Ted is that kid. It’s stupid, but it knows it and it flaunts it. It’s self-aware to the point that much of the criticism it deserves is rendered completely futile. Ted knows it has a bizarre premise and makes sure to address this numerous times. It’s not uncommon for the characters to stand back and comment on the ridiculousness of the scenes they’re in. Even some of the more trivial shortcomings of the film are defused by acknowledging their existence, such as the fact that its titular character (voiced by director Seth MacFarlane) sounds like he’s doing a bad Peter Griffin impression. It’s because he is. Like that dopey kid on the playground, you can’t really beat down a movie like Ted because it will just turn around and say, “Yeah, but it’s a movie about a teddy bear that comes to life. Were you expecting Citizen Kane?”
While Ted‘s self-awareness certainly leads to some humourous moments and takes the edge off of some of the more groan-worthy jokes, it doesn’t change the fact that the movie falls short. Watching Ted feels a lot like watching a 100-minute uncensored episode of Family Guy, MacFarlane’s animated television show (just in case you’ve been living under a rock for the last 10 years and didn’t already know that). This is both the best and worst thing about the movie. We’re treated to most of the same conventions: a blend of clever and idiotic jokes, obscure pop culture references milked for everything they’re worth, numerous celebrity cameos, a supporting cast of characters who are each built entirely on one gimmick, something that shouldn’t talk but does, and at the centre of it all is a dumb yet benevolent manchild (played surprisingly well by Mark Wahlberg in this film). Several Family Guy regulars also appear including Mila Kunis, Alex Borstein, Patrick Warburton, and Walter Murphy resumes his role as composer. Even the self-aware tone of Ted is borrowed from Family Guy. This is everything we’ve come to know and love about the show and now we get to experience it all on the big screen without that pesky FCC ruining everyone’s fun.
But that’s also the problem with Ted. Sure it’s incredibly funny and enjoyable, but it isn’t given a chance to be anything more than that. I truly feel that MacFarlane had a chance to prove his versatility with this film, but instead opted to give the audience exactly what they expected. A massive selling point of Ted is that it’s the first motion picture from the creator of an acclaimed television series. The naive part of me was wishing for MacFarlane to take this hyped-up opportunity to break out into a new medium and make something completely different and original, but like American Dad! and The Cleveland Show, he just gives us more of the same. It’s quite disappointing.
While Ted may be able to deflect a lot of its criticisms with “It’s stupid, so what?” it also runs the risk of undercutting much of its praise simply because it is a rehash of stuff we’ve already seen done better. It’s funny, so what?
I give it 3/5.