Synopsis: When he’s 8 years old lonely Boston kid John Bennett (Mark Whalberg) gets a teddy bear for Christmas. When he makes a wish for Ted (Seth MacFarlane) to come to life his wish comes true. Now John is 35 Ted is a foul mouthed room mate content with getting baked and talking shit, much to his girlfriend Lori’s (Mila Kunis) dismay. Hilarity ensues…
I am a huge Family Guy nerd (see the name of this blog for evidence). In fact I am a huge Seth MacFarlane nerd generally. Even the weakest of the MacFarlane trio The Cleveland Show is better than 60% of other stuff on TV and will keep me amused for 21 minutes. So unbelievably excited was I when I first heard the news that MacFarlane was doing a buddy comedy I almost pee’d my pants.
Now I know that it seems strange given this fact that I am about the last person to have seen it. However, I generally don’t watch comedies at the cinema because there is no benefit to seeing it on a 40 foot screen. Then when it came out on DVD lots of other things kept coming up and long story short I just didn’t get around to it till now. But boy am I glad after all this time it didn’t disappoint.
For me one of the strengths of Seth MacFarlane’s writing is he is an equal opportunity offender. Sex, race, religion, personal circumstances; you are all fair game. Generally the group most at danger, aside from vacuous celebrities, are white working class New Englanders, a group MacFarlane himself comes from (although given his vast personal wealth and power I think the working class bit is stretching it.) He also surrounds himself with writers who have a talent for turning their mis-spent youths absorbing all manner of 80’s movies and TV into hilarious pop culture references.
Using the key writing elements of Family Guy to pen this script, and the use of MacFarlane as the voice of Ted (which is essentially the same voice as Peter Griffin) means the whole thing delivers from start to finish what you’d expect from a MacFarlane project; a succession of quick fire jokes, tons of swearing, the right amount of sentimentality and plenty of offensive swipes at all manner of people. There are also plenty of things that in other hands either wouldn’t have worked or would have been approached differently to their detriment. The biggest one being the status of Ted himself in the eyes of the people around him.
It would have been too easy to make this a story about Whalberg being able to see him and hear him but no one else being able to and him trying to convince his girlfriend he’s not mad, which would be like a million other crappy 80’s style movies. So I was really pleased that they made Ted essentially a dude that’s a bear and everyone treats him accordingly. There are a few nods to the fact he is a bear (for instance his lack of a penis) but otherwise everyone just gets on with it. He has sex with dirty skanks, drinks beer, snokes bongs and drives (often many of these things are not mutually exclusive). All that means is you can still find it funny that Ted is this cute thing with a foul mouth but ultimately that is an aside and this is a classic bromance storyline. Two life long friends grow up, still doing the same old shit. One gets a girlfriend and has to grow up. The other doesn’t. And so and so forth. Simple. Genius in the hands of MacFarlane and co.
The other thing that could have fallen flat was the significant part played by Sam J Jones a.k.a. 70’s film icon legend Flash Gordon. MacFarlane makes no secret of the fact he has a bit of a boner for Flash Gordon. So to use him in such a prominent way could have just felt like someone with too much money and power using his position to live out a fantasy to everyone else’s detriment. But it works and is incredibly funny. Mostly because Jones is happy to send himself up as an ageing coke head party animal. Probably because he needs the money and exposure (there is a very funny joke about him and Brandon Routh sharing an apartment at the end).
The use of MacFarlane as the voice of Ted was a little jarring to start with as essentially it is a slightly more baritone version of Peter Griffin. So every time he spoke I went “that’s Peter Griffin, this is freaking me out”. It was exactly the same experience I had with BASEketball when Matt Stone and Trey Parker would switch into using South Park voices but you were watching them on screen. That was freaking weird. Admittedly not as weird as seeing MacFarlane live on the Letterman Show doing a Stewie voice. That was too much. But after 5 minutes I got used to it and would only occasionally find myself noticing it.
Mark Whalberg continues to surprise me with just how funny he is as the straight guy in the buddy dynamic. He did the same thing in The Other Guys and was waaaaaaaay funnier than Will Ferrell who just did his shouty schtick. Dude’s turning into Adam Sandler I swear. Anyway, Whalberg…dude’s got some comedy chops. I thought the same thing about Channing Tatum in 21 Jump Street. Another one I didn’t think would have it but does. Mila Kunis was great casting as the love interest and unsurprising casting given she is a key voice actor on Family Guy. She is genuinely funny. And stupidly hot. But more importantly genuinely funny. I always thought her and Ashton Kutcher were the best things about That 70’s Show. Knows her way around a punchline.
Giovanni Ribisi stole the show and made me realise no-one does creepy slightly effeminate like him. Ever since Friends when he did that whole on edge, wired turn as Phoebe’s younger brother I love it when he turns up in stuff. Shit, should have put him in my top 10 Actors I’ll Watch In Anything. Oh well. He’s a scene stealer in this as well. One particular moment involving a smoothie, a Tiffany video and very smooth hips will leave you in tears.
Conclusion: Given his geek fan boy love of all things movie it was never going to be anything other than great. All in all this just left me wanting MacFarlane to make many many more movies and TV shows and never retire. His Oscar nomination turn with Emma Stone made me genuinely excited to watch the Oscars this year. God, anything has to be better than James Franco and Anne Hathaway. Who thought THAT was a good idea. Lastly, I defy anyone not to tell thunder to got fuck itself next time there’s a storm. Almost tempted to rename this blog Thunder Buddies….
Verdict: Must See
Taglines: Ted Is Coming
Director: Seth MacFarlane – Everyone knows who he is by now but for those of you who don’t he is the creator/writer/producer/star of cult shows Family Guy, American Dad and (less popular) Cleveland Show. Also hosting the 2013 Oscars, he is probably the most powerful man at Fox not called Murdoch. This was his first live action feature effort.
Writer: Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin & Wellesley Wild who are all feature writers on Family Guy
Cast: Mark Whalberg, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane, Giovanni Ribisi and Joel McHale
Quotables (the whole thing is fairly quotable but here are a selection. Sorry if I missed your favourite):
John: [during a flashback to 2008] Chris Brown can do no wrong!
Narrator (Patrick Stewart): Now if there’s one thing you can be sure of, it’s that nothing is more powerful than a young boy’s wish. Except an Apache helicopter. An Apache helicopter has machine guns AND missiles. It is an unbelievably impressive complement of weaponry, an absolute death machine
[John is in Thomas’ office for being late and for Ted damaging one of the rental cars]
Thomas: John, it’s almost 10:00.
John: I know, sir. I’m sorry, it wasn’t my fault.
Thomas: What do you mean?
John: Why?………… I, I guess I wasn’t really prepared for a follow-up question.
- Various teddy bears were used as stand-ins for post-production editing. Ted’s movements were done by Seth MacFarlane through motion capture.
- Shipped to theaters under the title “Thunder Buddies”.
- At one point in the movie, Ted mentions 9/11. ‘Mark Wahlberg’ and Seth MacFarlaneboth narrowly missed being on the planes that hit the World Trade Center. Wahlberg was booked on American Airlines Flight 11 but decided to drive up to New York and fly to California later. McFarlane was scheduled on the same flight but arrived to gate ten minutes late and was unable to board. He was sitting in the airport when he saw that his plane had hit the North Tower of the World trade center.
- As of December 2012, Ted is the highest grossing R-rated live action comedy of all time overtaking The Hangover.
On DVD, BluRay and streaming on BlinkBox