Starring Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane • Directed by Seth MacFarlane • Age restriction: 16DLNPS • Releases 24 August
Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane makes his big-screen directorial debut with Ted – a live-action/CGI blend that mixes outrageous humour with a surprisingly schmaltzy heart.
The central idea of Ted is a great one. While having a stuffed animal as your best friend may seem like the greatest thing in the world when you're a kid, what happens when you're all grown up and dealing with adult problems?
Meet John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg). When he was eight, he wished his teddy bear could be his real-life best friend – and a little magic later, Ted (voiced by MacFarlane) comes alive. They promise to be best friends forever – and Ted's magical appearance causes him to become a huge celebrity.
But a few decades down the line, Ted's star power has waned dramatically – in fact, he ends up working at a grocery star, in a sad nod to fallen child stars – and John and Ted's friendship is strained as John's relationship with Lori (Mila Kunis) deepens and he realises that he needs to grow up, just a little. What do you do when you're in your thirties and still living with the stuffed bear who drinks, smokes pot and brings hookers home?
The film's outline is largely rom-com fodder – one reviewer described it as You, Me and Dupree with a plush toy – with Lori getting frustrated at John's lack of drive and ambition, and ultimately laying down an ultimatum: It's me or the bear. But there are also some completely bizarre asides: the creepy father-son duo intent on buying Ted, and a random appearance Sam J Jones of Flash Gordon fame. Also popping their head up as Lori's creepy, stalker boss Rex is Community's Joel McHale.
Most of the comedy – as you would expect from MacFarlane – is pretty crude, consisting largely of drug jokes, sex jokes, fat jokes, slapstick racist jibes and pop culture references. Some of it is laugh-out-loud funny, some of it is cringeworthy – and it is definitely not for the easily offended. Don't be fooled by the bear – this is not a movie you're going to take your kids (or your mother) to. And yet despite the extremely cynical undertones, the core at the centre of the film is pretty damn cheesy, with MacFarlane seeming to cave towards the end of the film and give into the schmaltz.
In fact, while the first half of the film takes a while to get going, the second is a crazy race through to cram as much in as possible – and you get the feeling it's all been a little rushed.
Wahlberg is a delight as John, letting his Boston self shine through and coming across as natural and relaxed. There is a great scene which sees Wahlberg rattle off a list of trashy Boston names to Ted – faster than the ear can process. He's full of energy and plays wonderfully off Kunis and the CGI bear
Kunis, meanwhile, makes the most of a very bland character, and try all you might, but you can't help fall for the MacFarlane-voiced Ted – especially if you're a Seth Rogen fan. (Basically, you're getting the stuffed-bear version of Rogen's Knocked Up character).
In all, Ted will likely delight MacFarlane's fans. If you loved Family Guy, The Hangover and Knocked Up, this will probably be right up your alley.