Anything associated with innocence and childhood, swearing, acting immature and crude and generally doing things considered “adult,” will be appealing. It’s the idea that we are seeing something associated with the mainstream and acceptable, doing something considered taboo. It’s the same reason people would flock to see Kermit swearing or characters from Sesame Street taking drugs. It’s a corruption of innocence and acceptability and people get intrigued by that.
It’s also been a great source of comedy in the past too. Its the basic, fundamental reason that South Park and Family Guy are so successful. There are great stories and fantastic characters, coupled with brilliant writing and very funny material, but for most people, watching children, even though they are animated, swearing and acting inappropriately was the initial appeal. Its testament to Matt Stone and Trey Parker that they managed to build upon that and maintain a core following and a great show.
Seth MacFarlane knows how to do this too. He created a very crude, offensive but hilarious show which also played on the idea of seeing people and things associated with innocence and childhood, acting and talking in a more mature way. Alongside Stewie and Brian, you also have the cut-aways to The Muppets, Mr Rogers and a host of other childhood icons acting in a way that is alien but subsequently funny.
Ted is a film built on this joke. A childhood toy, the most basic of toys, a teddy bear, comes to life and grows up with its “owner.” What begins as a sweet childhood friendship develops into a grown-up, bro-mance. The comedy is in seeing Ted, a brilliantly realised CGI bear, swear, make crude comments, take drugs, drink and generally act in an obnoxious but very funny way.
That’s the key to the movie, it is funny to see Ted do these things. The lines he delivers and the way he acts is brilliant. From driving a car recklessly to hiring prostitutes, it’s very novel and very entertaining to watch and the key to its appeal is Seth MacFarlane. It wouldn’t work without him voicing the bear and you can tell he’s behind it from the first few moments. It has a crude, offensive humour, throwbacks and homages to 80s and 90s pop culture and enough in-jokes to keep his fan-base happy.
It doesn’t feel like an insular, cult project though. Its got a good budget which is needed for Ted’s character to be believable. It’s also got great support. Mark Wahlberg is almost the star of the movie, outdone only by his CGI best friend. He gets lines as good as Ted’s and gets to act as obnoxious and immature as he does too. Its testament to Wahlberg that he is still game to do this kind of movie after success with The Departed and The Fighter.
The immature, cuddly main character and his brilliantly acted best friend can only get the movie so far though. It is a one-joke movie, although there is plenty things to do with that joke, it was always going to run-out eventually. This happens about forty-five minutes in, when Ted’s actions are just not that new or shocking anymore. There are some great moments towards the end, but it all comes down to the story to keep the movie entertaining.
Unfortunately, the story isn’t actually that original. Take away the swearing, drug-taking and prostitutes and you have a basic, “boy becomes man and learns to leave childhood behind” concept. Its a story we’ve seen lots of times before, done in a much better way. It’s because of its familiarity that it’s also very easy to guess what is going to happen next, from the smallest plot point to the larger, climax to the film. All of it has been done before and highlights how shallow the concept of a swearing, drinking, talking bear actually is.
This is a minor gripe compared to how much I enjoyed the first half of the film though. It is very funny. It is very well written and realised and I can’t fault how the initial idea and overall “joke” is actually delivered. It’s just a shame that there wasn’t more to it.
Overall, Ted is a great idea, very well executed in a very funny way, for at least the first half of the movie. Eventually, you will have seen it all before and the finale to the movie won’t be a surprise. That shouldn’t take away from what is a very well acted, very funny and unique take on an idea that maybe isn’t so original.
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)