‘…very, very funny…’
Humour, like film, is an entirely subjective experience. What one person may find hilarious could be branded as crass and sophomoric by someone else. Seth McFarlane has made a handsome living out of making big, brash and loud humour with FAMILY GUY, AMERICAN DAD and the slightly less-successful CLEVELAND SHOW. What some may not realise is that Seth McFarlane was also responsible for the huge popularity of intelligent and more adult-tinged animation comedies of the late 1990′s, shows such as DEXTER’S LABORATORY, COW & CHICKEN and JOHNNY BRAVO. As such, it’s fair to say that he isn’t especially new to creating comedies that have a broad appeal or that target a wide demographic. With TED, his first live-action film, Seth McFarlane sets out his stall.
The story follows John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) and the titular character (voiced and motion-captured by Seth McFarlane) as both go through a series of ups-and-downs as they struggle with moving on without each other. The plot of the film is, admittedly, perfunctory and well-worn. Bennett is a thirty-something going nowhere with an implausibly attractive girlfriend (Mila Kunis). In order for them to move forward with their lives, Bennett has to set aside his childhood friend, Ted, and make a serious commitment to being an adult. Waiting in the wings for Kunis’ affection is Community‘s Joel McHale, here playing the role of Kunis’ boss. The film’s strength, naturally, doesn’t lie with the plot. It’s fairly wafer-thin and is merely a vehicle for the comedic set-pieces throughout. Mark Wahlberg is by no means a comedic actor and the role he plays isn’t particularly taxing. Anyone could be put into the role and turn out a similar, if not better performance than he. McFarlane is effectively playing Peter Griffin in a bear suit. Loud-mouthed, foul-mouthed, prone to taking drugs, messing around with prostitutes and other unrealistic and highly inappropriate scenarios. McFarlane’s script, together with his voice performance, is what makes the film. The comedy is very much at the same level as FAMILY GUY – the film references it once or twice; both with a drawn-out fight scene and the fact that Ted, well, sounds like Peter Griffin.
The script and direction are both reasonably standard. This is Seth McFarlane’s first feature-length film and it shows. There’s no huge cinematic flourishes or over-wrought camerawork here. The scenes, cinematography and the layout is very much narrow and straight to the point. Like the comedy, it’s easy to take in and understand. There’s nothing taxing about TED in any shape or form and that’s a good thing. McFarlane is clever enough to know that he doesn’t need to push the boat out too far in order to get huge laughs – which the film definitely has. He keeps to his strengths and doesn’t go overboard on the more dramatic scenes. Indeed, some of these scenes are genuinely touching. They may be clichéd and obvious, but when put next to Sam J. Jones – yes, FLASH GORDON – they strangely work well. TED will undoubtedly be a huge success and it’s plain to see why. McFarlane’s debut may not have broken the mould or done anything new or exciting. But it’s very, very funny.
DROP-D RATING: 8 / 10