Review: Can Family Guy Creator Seth MacFarlane Make A Worthy Transition To The Big Screen With Ted?

Seth MacFarlane is well known for being the creator of Family Guy, as well as the voice of many of it’s most popular characters including Peter Griffin, Brian Griffin, and Stewie Griffin. But now MacFarlane challenges himself with his first feature length film, not only in the director’s chair but also as the voice of Ted himself. MacFarlane's brand of humor is now well known by many, which is something many fans are expecting from Ted. But does MacFarlane’s transition from television to film work for the better, or should he just stick to Family Guy for now on?

Ted begins in Boston, Massachusetts, as a lonely boy, John Bennett, wishes he had a friend. On Christmas morning, John gets a teddy bear which he names "Teddy" from his parents. After spending a lot of fun time with Teddy, he wishes upon a shooting star that it was his real life friend. Sure enough, the teddy bear comes to life one day and quickly becomes John’s best friend, and "Thunder Buddy". His parents are startled at first by the walking and talking teddy bear, but they overcome their fears. John has a best friend for life, and Ted quickly becomes a famous celebrity getting much publicity from the media for his supernatural nature.
And then we are taken to the present day, where Ted (Seth MacFarlane) and John (Mark Wahlberg) are now much older, living together in an apartment along with John's girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis). John is a car sales men, not happy with his job, while Ted doesn't have a job and just hangs out at their house all day, much to Lori's dismay. Eventually Ted's antics begin to become too much for Lori's patience and John is forced to make a big decision; Lori or Ted? And from then on we really get to see John's relationship with both characters, and just how much happens when they try to turn their lives around.
While the film is obviously intended to be a comedy, it's very different from the usual comedies we've been seeing recently (ala Hangover, Bridemaids, etc.), so it's refreshing to see something new brought to the table. Although I'd actually call Ted a real feel good movie, much to my surprise, and although they actual story may not be very original, MacFarlane manages to mix in his usual brand of humor through Ted, as well as many fun and cameos to make the film a very fun one, even more so than it is actually funny, but that's not really a bad thing.
The relationships between both Ted and John, and Lori and John, are very key to the film, and MacFarlane handles them very well despite the comedic nature of the film. Although Ted is a completely CG character, Wahlberg and MacFarlane great job at really making us feel like John and Ted are actually in the same room just talking like two normal people would. There isn't a moment where the CG seems off or does flow right with the interactions from Wahlberg which was something that really helped make their friendship feel all the more realistic.
One thing that worried me as soon as I heard Seth MacFarlane would be directing an R-rated film about a talking teddy bear is that MacFarlane would really have no boundaries here. I'm a fan of MacFarlane's sense of humor and his show's Family Guy and American Dad but I'm aware many other people find his humor to be pretty offensive and not politically correct, and I agree that sometimes he takes it too far. So with the fact that he'd be leaving the small screen where's he's limited by censorship to an R-rated film I expected a lot of pretty brutal jokes from him. But overall I think MacFarlane managed to keep a good balance between his usual brand of humor in his TV shows as well as some new things he can now add without limitations. While somethings felt a little over the top and unnecessary just for the chance of using raunchy humor, the fact is MacFarlane is able to show his full comedic abilities without being weighed down by censorship, and almost every comedian is funnier without limits (See Eddie Murphy's eighties stand-up for an example).
The performances in the film were pretty good, and they gave us all around funny and enjoyable characters to watch share the screen with Ted. While Wahlberg didn't exactly have a very dramatic role here or anything, he did play a very different character from his usual tough hot tempered persona he always uses. Here he portrays a more childish slacker type and it helps make his performance all the more funnier in comparison to comedic role's he's taken in the past, and he's really believable in the part of a man who's grown up with a talking teddy bear his entire life and has grown and emotional attachment to it.
Mila Kunis (Friends With Benefits) also does a pretty good job, also playing a very different character from her usual Meg persona on Family Guy. Other actors who give off some pretty fun comedic performances include Patrick Warburton (Family Guy) and Joel McHale (The Soup), who all get their moment to shine, as well as some pretty hilarious narration from Patrick Stewart (I would've preferred if it took place throughout the whole film though), and a hilarious cameo from Flash Gordon star Sam Jones. MacFarlane himself also did a pretty great and hilarious job, but the only thing I had a problem with was him using his exact Peter Griffin voice for Ted. For me it just felt a little lazy and out of place, and while I can understand why he didn't use his actual voice to refrain from comparison's to Brian from Family Guy, I just would've preferred a different voice from him that is a little more creative.
One thing I really loved about the film was it's soundtrack, which gave the film a very classic and lighthearted vibe that fit the Ted perfectly. I've always loved the scores for Family Guy and American Dad by Walter Murphy, so it's no surprise that I loved his score this time around too but it was really great to finally hear him composing a full movie. There's also some other great inclusions to the soundtrack that aren't composed by Murphy such as the iconic Flash Gordon theme song sung by Queen for the original film, and the original song Everybody Needs Best Friend by Norah Jones. Overall the film is excellently put together musically and I hope MacFarlane continues to work with Murphy on his future film projects as his scores really do have a very theatrical presence to them.
In the end Seth MacFarlane manages to pull off a pretty successful film debut and gave us a very different comedy movie from the typical ones we see nowadays, and originality is always welcome in my book. MacFarlane really uses the cast to their full comedic potential, as well as transitioning his well known brand of humor full of fun references and cameos from his cartoons to the big screen, while still keeping it from coming off as Family Guy: The Movie. Whether it be a comedy or more serious film next time around, I can't wait to see what future projects MacFarlane has as a Hollywood director.

I give Ted 3.5 out of 5 stars:

Here's the trailer for Ted:
What did you think of Ted? Do you plan on seeing it?