22 August 2012
For those of you unsold on MacFarlane's unique comedy stylings, this isn't going to sway you onto him - the same scatological whimsy that is on display in his televisions shows pervades here, even so far as to cut to slightly silly asides that don't really hold any meaning beside being quite funny.
It is, however, a terrific setup, playing on the nostalgia of similar 80s/90s movies - you know the ones, modern fantasies that have a hint of magic, riffing on them beautifully with Walter Murohy's deliciously chintzy score, and a slightly serious, yet oft-distracted narration from Patrick Stewart that is the source of the film's first laughs.
Then there's the magic moment itself, and this is rather well built-upon, with Ted quickly becoming a celebrity, and then following the path of more than a few child stars as he grows up, retreating into obscurity
But what's really remarkable is that the film does indeed have a soul - strip away the ostensible gimmick of the animated cuddly toy as protagonist, and it would still work. It has something to say about friendship, love, obsession, parenting, and more, and as it explores these with coarsely poetic dialogue swirled into outlandish slacker melodrama - recalling Kevin Smith at his best - it creates characters that you can actually invest in. Come the denouement, when what the BBFC might refer to as 'mild peril' is introduced, you find yourself concerned for the wellbeing of a stuffed toy that you're not even sure can die, which is something of an achievement.
Whilst MacFarlane's direction is occasionally a little rudimentary, he never mishandles any particular aspect, though his talents are clearly more suited to some motes of live action over others. He does, however, drive it all forward himself with a great central performance as Ted, and his sense of comic timing also makes the overall transition to the big screen intact.
The rest of the cast a good too: Mila Kunis has already established herself as a good leading lady, and Mark Wahlberg makes for a capable foil, ensuring the story stays grounded. It's nice that there's also no traditional 'straight man' within the trio. Each take their turn, and this lends the dialogue an organic feel that serves to make the comedy rather satisfying. The supporting cast - bit part cameos as a majority - are all fun to spot, and each gets a nice few moments in the limelight. Most notable are Bill Smitrovich as Frank, Ted's manager - a bit of an oddball, but a memorable one - and Giovanni Ribisi as Ted's stalker, a character that was drawn from the same part of MacFarlane's mind as Herbert from Family Guy. Funny, but also mildly creepifying.
Ultimately, the film is simply good fun - tight editing eliminates dull moments, and MacFarlane's particular brand of comedy is as it ever was, and if it's your cup of tea, you'll find more than your share to like here. Certainly worth seeing.