Published on June 29th, 2012 | by Padraic Coffey0
And so, years after the concept was first debated by inebriated college students, it finally arrives: the Family Guy movie. Of course, this is not how Ted is being publicly promoted. Nonetheless, those dormitory-dwellers who treated themselves to marathon DVD sessions of Seth MacFarlane’s career-making animated sitcom can rest assured, Ted will satiate your appetite for a feature-length project. Indeed, the first question to occur to even fleeting observers of MacFarlane’s output thus far is why it took him so long to direct a film. The makers of South Park released their big-screen spin-off less than two years after the show debuted, with 1999’s South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut. Conversely, Matt Groening and co waited nearly two decades before bringing their imaginatively-titled The Simpsons Movie to theatres – most would agree, well past the show’s finest era.
Ted is not officially a Family Guy film: there are no recurring characters from MacFarlane’s television series, which is why it may finally be more successful than the aforementioned South Park and Simpsons projects. No longer burdened by constant comparisons between Peter Griffin and Homer Simpson’s broods (overweight beer-swilling father; stay-at-home mother; neglected daughter etc.), Ted allows MacFarlane to indulge in the scatological humour which led to Family Guys phenomenal success. That said, fans of the show will notice overlapping themes in some of the (plentiful) gags; associating Asians with 9/11, the propensity for Nineties singers to emphasise vowels and – it will come as no surprise – a fetish for all things Eighties.
Plot-wise, the set up is blindingly simple: 9 year old John wishes his teddy bear were real, to substitute for his lack of friends. His wish comes true, and after a short prologue (which recalls the digital-splicing of Tom Hanks into archive footage in Forrest Gump) the film takes place 27 years later, where the two regularly drink beer, smoke pot and generally hinder any progress in John’s life (now played by Mark Wahlberg), while his increasingly-impatient girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis) observes.
Part of the reason why big-screen adaptations of television shows are such a bankable commodity is the built-in fan base accompanying them (witness the $700 million grossed by two Sex and the City films). For that reason alone, MacFarlane should be admired for not resting on his laurels. A common criticism thrown at Family Guy – apart from its superficial similarities to The Simpsons – is the writers’ tendency to crowbar in irrelevant humour via flashbacks and cutaways. While there is nothing wrong with his approach to comedy, it does display a slight lack of discipline on MacFarlane’s part. Refreshingly, Ted abstains from such independently-conceived skits for the most part, although it cannot help but stage an Airplane-spoof featuring Kunis and Wahlberg, which skates dangerously close to being simply a carbon copy a la the atrocious Scary Movie franchise.
Much of the comedy derives from the character of Ted himself (voiced by MacFarlane): irresponsible, foul-mouthed and almost identical in vocal pattern to Peter Griffin, the Family Guy patriarch. Throwing out gags at the rate the film does demands that a fair number of them stick, and fortunately this method is mostly successful. Indeed, moments where a punchline falls flat are certainly less prevalent than many a Family Guy episode of late. One senses the DVD of Ted will have hard-core fans salivating at a host of deleted/alternate footage, though the running time of 104 minutes is rather generous for such an insubstantial work. Hopefully, MacFarlane will resist the urge to capitalise on Ted‘s success with an unnecessary sequel, and channel his gift for juvenile slapstick into a different cinematic venture.