Ted (2012) review
|REVIEWS - MOVIES|
A muddled toy story that can’t overcome its gimmicky premise…
As children we all had that one toy that we were inseparable from. Whether it was an action figure or a doll, many of us spent our childhoods creating imaginary worlds and make-believe scenarios for our favourite toys to inhabit. But ultimately it was in our mind that these interactions began and subsequently ended.
In his directorial debut, Family Guy creator Seth Macfarlane has taken this premise one step further by introducing a teddy bear that actually comes to life thanks to a childhood wish made by its owner John Bennett. After receiving the ultimate gift, John forms an inseparable bond with Ted. However, as adults their friendship is put to the test as the inevitable task of ‘growing up’ threatens their laid-back lifestyles.
Refreshingly, it is this ‘real’ approach to Ted’s character that is the film’s greatest strength. The living toy is initially greeted with horror from John’s parents, sensationalism by the media and finally acceptance. It’s a shame that the film quickly cuts through these scenes because they are more entertaining and heartfelt than most of the hollow, gross-out moments that make up the rest of the film.
In fact, it soon becomes obvious that Ted suffers from some glaring narrative problems and one can’t help but blame Macfarlane’s relative inexperience behind the camera for these errors. The most obvious example is the introduction of a villain in the latter stages of the film. The character, played by Giovanni Ribisi, is used and discarded at will. The tense triangle concerning Ted, John and John’s girlfriend Lori, is by far the more interesting – yet hardly original – scenario. And alas, that’s what should have been the driving force behind the film. But the presence of Ribisi’s character, and his psychotic mini-me in the shape of his troubled son, serves as nothing more than a mere distraction.
All this could be forgiven if the film didn’t also look so amateurish. It is impossible to ignore the dull cinematography and odd framing of many of the shots. At times the whole thing feels like a low-budget farce rather than a multi-million dollar Hollywood production. The film lacks visual creativity and this zaps both the comedy and suspense from many of its core scenes. After all, film gags need to be shot in such a way as to make them visually funny. Unfortunately, compared to the far superior buddy comedies from the Apatow frat club, Ted is sorely lacking in this department.
However, the familiar gags in Ted will no doubt appeal to fans of Family Guy. Like that show, the film contains plenty of 80s nostalgia, repeatedly uses the cut-away flashback in its comic scenes, and even contains similar cheesy television-show music. Additionally, it is also likely to tick the boxes for a variety of cinemagoers. The couple dynamic qualifies it as a romantic date movie, kids will no doubt want to watch it – or sneak in to it to be precise - because of the talking CGI bear, and many teenagers and like-minded young adults will laugh along with the adult humour.
Still there’s no avoiding the fact that by the time its lazy conclusion rolls around, there is little to care about. A lack of characterisation and a muddled screenplay ensure that any empathy we might have had with Ted and his man-child owner at first is all but lost by the end. Some of the best films that contain imaginary characters – such as Harvey (1950) and Drop Dead Fred (1991) – also contain a lot of heart. Despite the fact that Ted is real, this cuddly fur ball is filled with nothing but stuffing.
Ted opens in the UK on the 2nd August
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