Published on July 13th, 2015 | by Josh Glenn0
Ted 2 – Review
You already know what you think about Ted 2. No matter how many reviews, interviews or trailers you see, nothing will convince you that this is anything other than exactly what you expect it to be. Watching the ‘movie’ (insofar as this can legitimately referred to as such) unfold over its devastating two-hour runtime is the act of witnessing a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s Seth MacFarlane’s brand of humour blown up and allowed to run wild. If you’re one of those masochists who still tunes into Family Guy, you’ll dig it. If not, it’s a pretty rough time.
This is a pretty snarky stance to take, I admit, and I will attempt to express just what it is about Ted 2 that brings out such a response in due course. Really, though, it’s just a result of MacFarlane fatigue. (Or MacFatigue, if you will.) Three films into his career, and with a perplexing range of talent eager to indulge him, MacFarlane shows no signs whatsoever of development. As a filmmaker, a writer and a general comedy voice, he’s content to play in his dirty little puddle instead of casting his sail out to the wider ocean.
His grasp of basic filmmaking conventions, for one, is minimal. Far from embracing the medium with the giddy enthusiasm of fellow animator Brad Bird, he stages it all like a naff cartoon sitcom. It’s visually disengaging and, in all honesty, looks bored with itself. His lack of willingness to grow and challenge himself is especially maddening when compared to peers like Adam McKay or even Todd Phillips, directors who work in similar territory to MacFarlane but are keen to imbue their films with a degree of artistry and have visibly gotten more sophisticated.
The cardinal sin, though, is that it’s painfully, distressingly, harrowingly unfunny. A good belly laugh can compensate for a lot of things, and is the reason that the first Ted just about managed to justify itself. (Only just, mind.) From the off, though, the sequel is stale. We first join Ted (voiced by MacFarlane) and John (Mark Wahlberg) at the former’s wedding to Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth). The ceremony is ordained by Flash Gordon, because we all loved him in the first one and will therefore love him equally in this one. John is feeling pretty bummed out due to his divorce from Lori – rendering the majority of the dramatic heft of the previous movie completely meaningless – and is struggling to get back in the game. On the Tami and Ted front, it doesn’t take long for the honeymoon to be over and the descent into furious bickering to begin. In an attempt to patch over the problems of the relationship, they decide to have a baby. After exhausting the idea of a sperm donor, the couple turn to adoption. It is here that they are made aware of a fatal legal predicament: as a creation of Hasbro, Ted isn’t a ‘person’ in the eyes of the law. He’s a thing. The lion’s share of the movie therefore follows the eponymous bear’s plight, backed by junior lawyer Samantha (Amanda Seyfried), for civil rights. Oh, and Giovanni Ribisi is also back in a subplot that is basically the same as last time but even more pointless.
As with the rest of MacFarlane’s work, narrative is secondary to his beloved non-sequitur. Unfortunately, as with the rest of MacFarlane’s work, it becomes really tiresome really quickly. By this point, Family Guy’s been on the air for over fifteen years, spawned two carbon-copy series’ (okay, maybe that’s a little harsh on American Dad) and led to two feature-length comedies. In short, we know how he operates. We know that we’re in for extended references to ‘80s movies. We know that we’re going to see ruthless takedowns of public figures. We know that we’re going to be subjected to risque race, gender and gay jokes that can be defended by pointing out that, hey, it’s non-discriminatory – nobody’s safe! But not only does this comedy technique staunchly not lend itself to a two-hour movie, it now comes across as even more arbitrary and lazy. The capacity to surprise is long gone, and MacFarlane either doesn’t know it or just can’t be bothered to change his tact to find it.
Chiefly, it flies in the face of the surprisingly earnest civil rights argument. There are two hefty monologues, one delivered by Seyfried and another by Morgan Freeman, that talk about what it means to be human and that anybody with the capacity to love and to hope is entitled to basic rights. It’s completely righteous, of course. It’s eloquently written and well performed, too. The trouble is, it’s entirely out of touch with everything else. It isn’t built towards, it isn’t earned and, therefore, it doesn’t stick. MacFarlane is too bothered about showing off his love of weed and calling back to the original and mounting tired homages to The Breakfast Club to more fully explore the ideas that he’s clearly passionate about. What we’re left with is a patchy, discordant mess.
Ted 2 is going to make a lot of money, which means that Ted 3 is pretty much a given. Hell, MacFarlane’s so confident that he baits it in the closing stretch. In an ideal world, though, he’d take a step back and listen to the criticisms that have increasingly been leveled against him. He’d think about them, take them onboard and learn from them. As a result, he’d refine his technique and maybe, just maybe, try something new. But he won’t. This is because, to paraphrase Patrick Stewart, he doesn’t give a shit about anything.