I’ve never liked Family Guy. Ever. So of course, when I found out that MacFarlane was doing a movie I was, to say the least, skeptical, to say the least. And fortunately, while this film does have its share of flaws (some of them rather glaring), its infinitely better than Family Guy, it’s not plagued by the gags that divert away from the narrative, it feels like a solid and cohesive narrative.
The film is chiefly about John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg), and his relationship with a foul mouthed bear called Ted (voiced by MacFarlane). The film opens with a prologue narrated Patrick Stewart (it’s also ended with such narration, which doesn’t work for me either time that its used), that explains how Ted comes to life.
The main narrative strand of it is about the relationship between Bennett and Ted, and the impact it has on the former’s relationship with his girlfriend, Lori (Mila Kunis). And while Lori is a major character of course, compared to Bennett and Ted, she feels very underwritten and feels, quite ironically, almost like a third wheel.
Wahlberg, MacFarlane and Kunis in Ted.
The same can be said for the vast majority of the supporting cast, who are played by good comic actors like Patrick Warbuton and Joel McHale, but they simply don’t work in the narrative, they serve no major purpose. Warbuton’s character, named only ‘Guy’, is simply… there. And McHale plays the typical unsympathetic character in a subplot with Kunis that goes basically nowhere. And when McHale, who is always excellent in Community doesn’t produce laughs, then something’s off. However, there is one genuinely wonderful supporting performance in the movie, Sam Jones (of Flash Gordon fame) as himself, producing excellent laughs, particularly when snorting coke and proclaiming “Death to Ming.”
While the supporting roles may not be all that great, the leading duo of Wahlberg and MacFarlane is where the film really comes to life and is at its best. Their performances are both great, particularly MacFarlane’s spot on voice acting, and they manage to create an excellent chemistry and rapport, and their relationship becomes much more real than you’d expect.
And it is this dynamic that makes the first two acts of the film so good, the way these two characters work with each other, a particularly good scene involves Wahlberg reeling off a list of ‘white trash’ names, and the way it works with the bear makes the scene stand out. The most surprising thing about the dynamic is they manage to create a lot of laughs out of a lot of one note humour.
The main narrative issue lies in the final act of the film, which is often the way with comedies like this, that also try to force home sentimentality. Simply put, the latter of those elements, the sentimentality does not work well. It becomes jarring in the way it is introduced, and slows down the pace of the final act, disjointing it from the remainder of the film.
While far from perfect, with unnecessary sentimentality, and a woefully underwritten supporting cast, Ted is still surprisingly good. With its two leading performances, it makes one note jokes interesting, and in terms of writing, stands head and shoulders above MacFarlane’s TV work.