Netflix UK film review: Ted
Ivan Radford | On 26, Jul 2014Reading time: 3 mins
Director: Seth MacFarlane
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Seth MacFarlane, Mila Kunis, Giovanni Ribisi
Watch Ted online in the UK: Netflix UK / TalkTalk TV / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
One Christmas Eve in Boston, a small child – John (Wahlberg) – wishes his teddy bear were real. He’s eight years old and needs a best friend. Luckily for him, someone out there’s listening. So is Patrick Stewart’s sardonic narrator.
“If there’s one thing you can be sure of, it’s that nothing is more powerful than a young boy’s wish…” says Stewart, before landing a hilarious opening gag. It’s downhill from there.
20 years later, Ted has become famous, done The Johnny Carson Show and sunk back into pot-smoking obscurity. He spends his days watching Flash Gordon on the couch while getting stoned – not that it matters. He’s a bear. The problem is that John does it too. And girlfriend Lori (Kunis) ain’t none too happy.
Will John ever learn to grow up? That’s the heart of Seth MacFarlane’s first live-action movie. At least, that’s what we’re meant to think. Family Guy fans may not be surprised to find Ted’s innards are actually a haphazard mix of swearing, pop culture references and politically incorrect remarks – but they will be surprised at how much of it isn’t funny.
Angry Chinese people holding ducks under their arms? Hookers crapping on carpets? Fat children being fat? Jim Davidson could write a funnier script.
As the titular Ted, MacFarlane’s delivery is suitably caustic – he does land a handful of laughs – but Ted feels like Family Guy after watching five episodes in a row: you notice just how patchwork the whole thing is. Credit goes to the special effects department, then, for making Ted blend in so smoothly with the live action set. And when the CGI does look a bit ropey (during one overblown fight scene), the excellent Mark Wahlberg is there to stitch it together: after The Other Guys, he’s proven himself a superb comic actor, the new Will Ferrell to Channing Tatum’s Vince Vaughn.
Mila Kunis makes the most of her token girlfriend, too, in what might have been a whiney, thankless role. Together, Kunis and Wahlberg just about work the romance angle: you almost want their relationship to succeed. But the final act – involving a wasted Giovanni Ribisi as “Ted’s biggest fan” – is a huge misstep. Just when you think Seth and his co-writers Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild have pulled off a surprisingly sweet conclusion to an uneven 90 minutes, up pops the foul-mouthed fuzzball to tear any sense of character or story to shreds. With nods to TV shows and naughty words used instead of actual jokes, audiences are left with little fur to cling onto.
A fresh take on the rom-com genre? Or an unfunny mess stuffed full of crap? One thing’s for sure: cameos from 80s movie stars aren’t the answer.
Ted is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.