CATEGORIES Movie NewsSo let's take care of the big, furry, farting, beer-guzzling elephant in the room: Is Ted simply a re-hash of Family Guy?
It's a fair question to ask; as a long-time fan of the TV show, it was certainly on my mind when I stepped into the theatre to watch the latest onslaught on our sensibilities offered up by Seth MacFarlane. It's also fair to think that the answer might be a simple "yes." After all, the marketing machine for the movie unquestionably banked on the popularity of the TV show to draw in larger audiences, prominently featuring the phrase "from the creator of Family Guy" on almost all promotional material.
With that phrase plastered across posters and billboards, we as an audience are assured of exactly what we're buying into, and our preconceptions for the film are immediately, indelibly set. With such blatant comparisons made on our behalf, this raises the question of what position this puts "the creator" in when they look to branch out into new mediums. Almost certainly aware this would happen, Seth MacFarlane would have spent at least a few seconds deciding the path to take in his directorial debut: stray from what has previously served him so well or stick to his trusty TV toolkit? In this case (and I don't think this is a spoiler alert), he chose to embrace his prior work with a great, big bear hug.
Looking at the cast and crew for Ted, it reads like the opening credits of Family Guy. Beyond appearances by just about everyone that's lent their voice to the show (seriously, how was Seth Green not in this movie?), MacFarlane also partnered with frequent FG collaborators Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild to pen the script. Surrounding himself with so many familiar cohorts must have eased the transition from the small screen and certainly cemented his approach to the film's style.
There are also the multiple thematic parallels that can be drawn between the two titles: the man-child central character; the talking animal buddy; obscure references to 80's pop culture; remarks by characters that tee up brief and funny flashbacks; extremely random insults at celebrities; cartoonish, ultra-violent prat falls; and, of course, the hyper-offensive racial and homosexual slurs delivered as casually as asking someone to please pass the peas. Oh, and farts. They're all in there, right where we expect them to be.
Despite having all these familiar elements, though, there are definite flaws to Ted. MacFarlane's own experience with movies was previously limited to voicework, and it's clear this is his inaugural outing behind the camera. Early in the movie, the pacing is muddled and clunky. Establishing scenes are a little awkward, minor characters float through the film with no real attachment to the plot and a few of the "serious" moments feel like the characters are just going through the motions, speaking their lines as if simply bridging the space between jokes. It's obvious that a script of this length is new territory for the team that's used to filling only 22 minutes at a time, and the film could have benefited from some sharper edits.
These shortcomings are almost immediately dismissed, though, as audiences are treated to what they have come to see: the crude, obnoxious, offensive humour. Already familiar with the boundaries that Family Guy has repeatedly pushed with TV censors, the target audience will be perversely drawn to this film to see how much further the writers could go given more license, and they will not be disappointed. It's clear that this is where MacFarlane and crew spent most of their energy on the script, opting for a boilerplate plot to act as the framework, and relishing in being able to do things not permitted on network TV. The raucous laughter that erupted in the theatre was equal parts delight and disbelief at the way Ted not only pushes the envelope of good taste, but gleefully tears it a new one.
More in deference to the success he's had with Family Guy than mere knock-off, Seth MacFarlane borrows as much as he can from his TV work for this film, easing the audience into a familiar space. While we are lulled into a comfortable rhythm of quasi-predictability, though, we are also made desperately hungry for the next shocking gag, the next offensive slur, the next violent shot to the groin. We're kept on the edges of our seats, wondering "can they go any farther than that?" and in this, Ted manages to deliver to hilarious heights and stand apart from Family Guy on its own two furry feet.
Is it predictable? Yes. Formulaic? You bet. Hilarious? Absolutely. But, really, did you expect anything different?