Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Movie Review: Ted 2

Ted 2
Directed by: Seth MacFarlane.
Written by: Seth MacFarlane & Alec Sulkin & Wellesley Wild.
Starring: Mark Wahlberg (John), Seth MacFarlane (Ted), Amanda Seyfried (Samantha), Jessica Barth (Tami-Lynn), Giovanni Ribisi (Donny), Morgan Freeman (Patrick Meighan), Sam J. Jones (Sam Jones), Patrick Warburton (Guy), Michael Dorn (Rick), Bill Smitrovich (Frank), John Slattery (Shep Wild), Cocoa Brown (Joy), John Carroll Lynch (Tom Jessup), Ron Canada (Judge).

Seth MacFarlane’s original Ted – from 2012 – showed that the creator of Family Guy et al may actually have a career ahead of him making movies. By no means was Ted a great movie – but it was a legitimately funny one, and it also had more structure than anything MacFarlane had done before – his TV shows barely have plots, as he seems to have an “anything goes” policy, of throwing everything at the wall to see what will stick, and abandoning the plot altogether. Ted may have recycled a well-worn plot, adding a Teddy bear instead of a boneheaded idiot to play the best friend of the man who needs to grow up before he will be worthy of the woman he loves, but at least there was a plot – and it worked. MacFarlane’s follow-up film – last year’s A Million Ways to Die in the West – was a huge step backwards – as, like all of MacFarlane’s TV shows, it abandons any real attempt to have a plot, and instead replaces them with a series of jokes – most of them lame – which are strung together by a plot that barely seems to be there. With Ted 2, MacFarlane takes this another step in the wrong direction. Yes, there is a plot in Ted 2, but MacFarlane never takes it seriously. It’s just there so MacFarlane can hang a series of juvenile jokes from it – which would be fine if the jokes were funny, but they aren’t. Ted 2 is the very definition of a lazy sequel – the type of thing the makers do on autopilot, because there is apparently demand for it.

The plot of Ted 2 is all about Ted suing the government for his civil rights, when they decide that the talking, sentient Teddy Bear isn’t a person after all – denying his and his wife’s adoption application, annulling their marriage, getting him fired from his job, etc. There’s no money for a real lawyer – despite the fact that Ted is the world’s only talking Teddy Bear, he has somehow not parlayed that into any money – so they end up with recent law school grad Samantha Jackson (Amanda Seyfried) – who has someone made her way well into her 20s, and never heard of either Samuel L. Jackson or Rocky – but does smoke a lot of weed. This is great news for pothead Ted, and his pothead buddy John (Mark Wahlberg) – who is now divorced from Mila Kunis’ character from the first movie (which is probably the most realistic thing about this one) – who is with Ted and his lawyer every step of the way – way more than Ted’s wife – who for some reason is left at home every time they need to do anything funny.

Ted 2 does have some laughs in it – there are a lot of celebrity cameos, and most of them are pretty lame, but there is one by an actor using his “unique skill set” which had me laughing out loud more than any other time in the movie. But like seemingly every other joke in the movie, it’s essentially a throwaway gag, that doesn’t really need to be in the film itself. There are lots of other celebrity cameos, that go nowhere, as well as an endless string of jokes that many will (and have) considered to be racist or homophobic, and not without reason, although most of the jokes are so deliberately ridiculous, I had trouble taking them seriously – which is just as well.

The frustrating thing about MacFarlane is that there is talent there – quite of bit of it actually (I even liked his stint as Oscar host more than most), but he seems to take the path of least resistance every time out – making a lazy pop culture joke, or pushing the edges of good taste and political correctness to shock a laugh out of the audience, instead of taking his comedy to a deeper, more satisfying place. One of his heroes is clearly Mel Brooks – why else make a Western spoof when Brooks had already perfected it with Blazing Saddles – but at his best, Brooks’ film have something deeper to say than simply pointing and laughing at pop culture history. MacFarlane hasn’t gotten there – and perhaps he never will.

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