Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Ted 2

There was a time when I found Seth MacFarlane's style of humor to be hysterical, back when his non-sequiturs and cutaways were still considered groundbreaking. I couldn't get enough of the so-called "random" comedy he was pushing. But that time has long passed, and though I still tune in to Family Guy, the show is a shadow of its former self. With Ted 2, MacFarlane confirms that he has no interest in evolving as an artist, and that's tough for me to come to grips with because I feel like he's not living up to his full potential. He appears to be a smart guy in real life, but that intelligence hardly ever translates to the screen; in every scene, it seems as if he makes a beeline for the quickest, most obvious joke, and while that approach will get a few laughs, I find myself wrestling with accepting him for the filmmaker he is and holding out hope for the filmmaker I want him to be.

Ted 2
Co-Writer/Director: Seth MacFarlane
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Seth MacFarlane, Amanda Seyfried

The plot involves Ted and his wife Tami-Lynn wanting to have a baby in order to save their marriage, but when they try to file for adoption, it somehow raises red flags from government agencies who decide that Ted is not a citizen, but a piece of property. How anything involving Ted could possibly fly under the radar is not mentioned; since he's the ONLY MAGICAL TALKING BEAR IN THE ENTIRE FREAKING WORLD, I imagine it's not mentioned because it makes no damn sense at all. The first film established that Ted used to be a minor celebrity, and a character even asks him, "Hey, aren't you that bear that magically came to life?" at one point, so it's pretty clear that everyone in the film's universe is at least aware of him. You'd think someone somewhere would have checked on his paperwork before this point in his life.

But in a movie like this, the plot doesn't matter nearly as much as the jokes, which come at a rapid-fire clip but only occasionally made me laugh. Comedy is subjective, yadda yadda yadda...there's a chance you may find the movie way funnier than I do. It's all about how well your comedy tastes align with MacFarlane's. Amanda Seyfried is fine as a young lawyer who takes Ted's case, and Morgan Freeman pops up with a small role near the end. There are plenty of cameos and ridiculous moments to be found, but there are also a lot of elements that just come off as incredibly annoying, like the fact that a good portion of the film takes place at New York Comic-Con seemingly for the sole purpose of shoving product placement in our faces.

The film has a simple through line — Ted's fighting for his civil rights — but in typical MacFarlane fashion, there are a bunch of random asides that don't ever go anywhere. The movie opens with an extended title sequence full of dancers, dressed in elaborate costumes and performing complicated choreography to Walter Murphy's score like something out of an old Bing Crosby movie from the '40s. It's aggressive, in your face, and has absolutely no bearing (forgive the pun) on the rest of the film. To quote Jeff Goldblum's Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park, MacFarlane was so preoccupied with whether or not he could, he didn't stop to think if he should. This kind of thing happens multiple times in the movie, including a scene that, in the worst Family Guy tradition, features an extended fight sequence with no real payoff and no consequences. It's utter chaos for chaos' sake.

(Spoilers ahead)

I suppose I should have expected this film to recreate a lot of similar moments from the original, but I didn't know they would be quite so obvious. Giovanni Ribisi is back as the Ted-obsessed weirdo. Instead of Ted "dying" at the end of the first one, it's Wahlberg's turn this time. And while the original Ted undercut any chance of Wahlberg's character making any meaningful change in his life, this one does the same thing for Ted. In what I thought was the turning point of the film, Morgan Freeman's lawyer character says he won't take Ted's case because Ted hasn't made a contribution to society. Ted gets sort of sad and briefly self-reflective about this, but then the film moves past that idea and Ted never actually contributes anything. It's all about retaining the status quo; by the end of this movie, the only thing that's really changed since the end of the first film is that Ted and Tami-Lynn are married with an adopted kid, and now Wahlberg is with Amanda Seyfried instead of Mila Kunis. Their behavior and (im)maturity levels are exactly the same, paving the way for a Ted 3.

(End spoilers)

When it comes right down to it, Ted 2 is exactly what you expect it's going to be and nothing more. I'm sure a lot of people will give me the old "it's a Seth MacFarlane comedy - what did you think it was going to be?" line in the comments, but I guess I just wish I saw more flashes of the guy who executive produced and supported Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey instead of the one who oversaw six extended chicken fights over thirteen seasons of Family Guy.

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