Who can honestly say that in their junior years they didn't wish for their toys and teddies to magically come to life? Who didn't wish for their loveable, huggable friend to spring into action and join them in their daily shenanigans? But what would happen if said teddy joined you whilst you negotiated puberty, first loves, first dabbles with alcohol and other sinful ways, and even join in with you? Ted, the directorial debut of Family Guy/American Dad creator Seth MacFarlane, sets out to fill in the blanks of the "what if?" scenario.
Our titular character, brought to the screen through a superb combo of MacFarlane mo-cap and some superb CGI work, is a wonderful creation who is brought to life after child outcast John (Wahlberg) makes a Christmas wish that Ted was real. And after a few “work of the devil” run-ins with his folks, Ted flirts with superstar status, appearing quite brilliant on American talk-shows, before he and John settle to a life of laziness and tomfoolery, much to the annoyance of John’s long-term partner Lori (Kunis), who is trying tries to shake John from the shackles of teddy-bear reliance.
On the surface, Ted would seem to be a sketch-made-feature-length endeavour, but what sets this film apart is its huge, warm heart. Ted as a character is hard not to fall in love with despite all of the shenanigans that our duo get up to: whether smoking pot or numerous repeats of Flash Gordon, it's their honestly written relationship what gives their dynamic such a loving centre. That may sound overly cheesy for a film as crass as this, but just as with Family Guy or American Dad, MacFarlane's flair for balancing the obscene with "good old fashioned values" is what gives the film such class.
Anchoring the action is another great performance from Wahlberg, here showing the great comedy chops that saw him excel in The Other Guys. As the misguided John, Wahlberg is a little out of his comfort zone here, but just as he did for Christian Bale's eccentric performance in The Fighter, gamely steps aside from "top-dog" status to allow the John-Ted dynamic to work to full effect, and give the film its enduring quality.
Mila Kunis continues her impressive rise up the acting scales as John's long suffering girlfriend Lori, despite her character being as slender as she is. Her alluring looks, as well as excellent comedy chops keep Lori from becoming just your bog-standard "girlfriend" role. Ably supported by Giovanni Ribisi and Community's top-dog Joel McHale, as well as some hilarious cameos along the way, and the company only add to the films success.
But it's MacFarlane, who else, that steals the show as the titular teddy. Brilliantly conceived in character and design, it's a brilliant concoction of MacFarlane's best creations: a splash of Brian Griffin's swagger, a drop of Stan Smith's assertiveness and a handful of Peter Griffin's foul-mouthed vocals, as well as some fantastic Bourne-like machismo, Ted is a new wonderful inclusion to MacFarlane's ever-growing buffet of memorable players, and one that we hopefully see more of in the years to come.
Sure it has its moments where the jokes don't quite fly, and the kidnapping sub-plot may not sit quite so well with the rest of the film, but with everything else handled and balance superbly, any mini-gripes are forgotten as the film progresses. What’s left is this year’s most loveable, funny and endlessly quotable film that is sure to tickle the funny bone and tug at the heart strings of thunder buddies everywhere.