I don’t think I’ve actually watched an episode of Family Guy live in close to four years. I’ve watched some of the newer episodes on Netflix lately when I’ve been falling into a dark pit of boredom, but that show and its particular brand of humor has lost its effect on me. On the other hand, I do love American Dad. I think it is a much funnier show and it has managed to hold my interest longer. I think the writing staff for American Dad is more focused on a consistent comedic tone and it comes across in the finished product. The hand of Seth MacFarlane is there in both shows. There are hallmarks of his sense of humor that crosses over no matter what show he’s running. The same can even be said for The Cleveland Show, though I personally find that one unwatchable.
I bring all of this up so that you get an idea of how I feel regarding Seth MacFarlane’s particular schtick. I don’t find him as horrid as some people do, nor do I worship at his altar. Even the earliest episodes of American Dad weren’t as amazing as everyone makes them out to be. They don’t reach the level of classic Simpsons episodes or even early or modern Futurama installments in my honest opinion. But MacFarlane did inject a bit of fresh air into the animated comedy genre and made a name for himself based on a very specific type of humor. Do his sensibilities cross over into live action?
I have to say that with Ted, MacFarlane hits far more than he misses. He’s smartly put Mark Wahlberg in the lead and let him play the role completely straight. Wahlberg is surprisingly great in comedic roles. His turn in The Other Guys is enough to prove that point. He adds enough comedic flourishes to let us know that he isn’t phoning it in or taking himself too seriously, but at the same time he doesn’t go out of his way to act wacky or cartoonish. That would have sunk this film fast. Even MacFarlane plays the titular teddy bear as if he were an ordinary guy. The humor comes from that ordinary guy being a teddy bear and interacting with the real world. Honestly, I feel as if this movie could have been written without the element of Ted being a teddy bear but instead being Wahlberg’s human best friend and much of it could have remained mostly unchanged until the third act.
I also need to point out that it almost feels as if this movie is an apology to Mila Kunis from MacFarlane because her character is well written and treated with much more respect than her role on Family Guy. I suppose it was Seth’s way of saying “I’m sorry for all that horrible shit we put you through.”
Simply put, this is a better film than it has any right to be. Yes, MacFarlane is still overly dependent on 80′s pop culture to make a joke (which works with all the Flash Gordon references but falls on its face when he tries to parody the dance scene from Airplane! which was in and of itself a parody) and the third act seems to go off on a really weird tangent, but overall the film just works. I would recommend at least giving it a watch when it hits Redbox. You could do far worse.