A lot like Seth MacFarlane’s envelope-pushing ‘Family Guy’, the hit-to-miss ratio of this debut film feature skews heavily toward the latter. The various improper elements – homophobia, profanity, racism, misogyny, etc. – are all on display, but the’re put together with no regard for coherence, intelligence or lasting appeal.
Of course it would be foolish to expect subtlety or sensitivity from such a purveyor of bad taste, but the average cinema-goer deserves more than just a rigidly by-the-books tale of a thirtysomething man (John) struggling to reconcile the pillars of juvenile partying (Ted) and mature responsibility (his girlfriend Lori). The mawkish morals the film tries to impart about sustainable relationships are hard to swallow when they inevitably come after a scene, say, in which the humour is derived from a hooker defecating on an apartment floor. Such premises are ripe with humour, but they are not even exploited or built upon; rather, they are just left there to fester, as the characters attempt to transition back to an insistent stream of heartfelt drama (it is worth noting that the success of ‘Family Guy’ can be attributed to its trademark cutaways). Such off-the-hinges comedy is noticeably absent here, leaving a conventional plot of bromance versus romance in its wake. With cheap jokes about Taylor Lautner, it all feels cowardly from a creative team that pride themselves on being ‘equal opportunity offenders’ who tackle cultural touchstones. I bet the scene in which Ted tells a fat kid to “fuck off, Susan Boyle” took much effort, imagination and time for all three writers to insert into the screenplay.
Featuring pointless cameos and celebrity insults, the comedic premium of ‘Ted’ is thus placed on eliciting laughs by targeting viewers’ pop savviness (‘Diff’rent Strokes’ and ‘Flash Gordon’, anyone?). Now I was never expecting the film to inform and educate (or indeed have anything lucid to say about friendship) but I would’ve liked to have gained more than just two chuckles from such a painfully dull film complete with an ending of retrograde sincerity.