Written by Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild
Directed by Seth MacFarlane
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis and Seth MacFarlane
Ted: (Dressed in a suit) I look stupid.
John: No, you don’t. You look dapper.
Ted: John, I look like something you give to your kid when you tell ‘em Grandma died.
The opening sequence to TED, Seth MacFarlane’s (FAMILY GUY) first live-action feature film, tells you everything you need to know about whether you’re going to enjoy yourself or not. In it, a narrator (voiced by AMERICAN DAD regular, Patrick Stewart) tells us the story of how, one Christmas, a little boy’s wish brought a stuffed bear to life. The twosome will go on to become the bestest of friends until inevitably one day when a woman will come between them and threaten their very special relationship. It isn’t long before jokes are made about Jewish people and obscure pop culture references or even before the narrator himself takes a decidedly dirty direction with his tone. This is the story of a boy who doesn’t want to grow up, as told by a man who has made a fortune playing directly to boys who don’t want to grow up, the world over. Sometimes, I question whether MacFarlane has ever fully grown up himself. The question he poses to us is whether that’s actually a bad thing or not.
I think it would be fair to say that if you enjoy MacFarlane’s humour on his animated Fox shows (including THE CLEVELAND SHOW, in addition to the previously mentioned examples), then you will most likely laugh it up throughout TED. I actually do like MacFarlane’s humour quite a bit and I did a fair amount of hearty chuckling throughout his film debut, but not enough to see through all of his laziness. As much as I enjoy FAMILY GUY (and I do often enjoy it over and over again), I have found that he has learned to coast a bit on what he knows works well already. In TED, MacFarlane plays it safe, bringing on a number of people he’s already familiar with, from co-star, Mila Kunis, to composer, Walter Murphy. Heck, there’s even one foreigner character who knows the English language well enough to get by but misses all the nuances. (If you watch FAMILY GUY, you’ll know what that refers to). It almost felt to me at times that not only was MacFarlane playing it safe but rather surrounding himself with the familiar so he too would feel safe in this unchartered territory.
I would be remiss not to mention as well how similar Ted the bear sounds like MacFarlane’s quintessential character, Peter Griffin. They are so similar at times that MacFarlane even calls himself out on it in one scene when Ted quips about how he does not sound exactly like Peter Griffin. Just because MacFarlane is in on the joke though does not make us forget that TED is, on many levels, just FAMILY GUY crammed into a cuddly bear. And while this does entertain on many levels, it only does so to a point. What it does past that is expose without question MacFarlane’s limitations as a writer and director.
PS. I really do like you, Mr. MacFarlane. I guess, I just want to see what else you can do, where else you can go.