Director: Seth McFarlane
Cast: Seth McFarlane, Mark Wahlberg, Amanda Seyfried, Morgan Freeman and Giovanni Ribisi
Running Time: 115 minutes
Release Date: July 10th
In the interest of fairness, I should point out that I am not a big fan of the comedy of Seth McFarlane. I gave up watching Family Guy years ago, never got into American Dad and the less said about The Cleveland Show the better. Added to that I thought that McFarlane’s previous directorial feature, A Million Ways to Die in the West, a film completely driven by the egotism of its creator, was one of the worst films of last year. That said, I must admit that I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Ted, McFarlane’s debut picture. Don’t great me wrong, the film isn’t perfect by any means, it did however make me laugh many times throughout its running time so I actually had some hope for its sequel Ted 2. Unfortunately Ted 2 doesn’t anyway near the highs of its predecessor rather than stumble towards the god-awful lows of A Million Ways to Die in the West.
The plot, such as it is, though McFarlane is never one for tight narratives, sees Ted (voiced by McFarlane) getting married to his girlfriend, only for their marriage to start running into trouble a year down the line. Told that having a child would strengthen their marriage and unable to conceive, she being infertile and him being a toy bear, they decide to adopt. They are told they can’t adopt however because in the eyes of the state Ted is not seen as a person but rather as a piece of property. After losing his job and marriage annulled by the state, Ted, alongside his best friend John (Mark Wahlberg) and lawyer Samantha Jackson (Amanda Seyfried), decide to fight back and demand he be given his civil rights.
My biggest problem with McFarlane’s comedy, and there is plenty, is his over reliance on having pop culture references serve as the main function of the gag. This works fine if you have an affinity for the piece of pop culture being referenced, but if you don’t or indeed if you don’t actually know that much about in the first place, the joke falls flat. An example for me would be the extended cameo by Sam J. Jones in the first film. Now I don’t have any fondness for “Flash Gordon”, who Jones played in the 1980 film, nor do I have any interest in the career of Jones himself. So his, quite long, appearance as a coked up version of himself did absolutely nothing for me. Instead I just felt like I was stuck in the middle of a conversation of fanboys as they were all cracking inside jokes about their favourite pieces of pop culture and all I can do is just stare at them and think “Why won’t you stop?” Added to this is McFarlane’s habit of using running gags that can only be technically called running gags because after the eight time of hearing one of them you just want to run up and gag everybody on screen.
What’s worse is that there is certain amount of smugness throughout the film. This is most notable in its attitude towards its own comedy. Throughout there are pauses after a joke, the thinking being that people are going to laughing so much that they don’t want them to miss anything. But as it isn’t funny in the first place, these pauses become irritating in their arrogance. There is also self-congratulatory feeling towards the serious point that the film wants to make, which is that having equal and civil rights are important. Well done. Give yourselves a good hard pat on the back for having a message that is obvious to everyone who isn’t an arsehole. What the filmmakers don’t seem to realise is that the way you deliver your message is more important than merely saying it and here there is no effort to contextualise the issue, instead it merely just states hooray for civil rights! At the same time the message never sits well with the tone of the film which is an endless stream of jokes about drugs, bodily fluids, gay people, black people, etc.
This smugness is completely baseless however as the film is so lazily done in almost every single aspect. The jokes appear as if they are McFarlane on autopilot. The camerawork lacks any comedic flare. Many of the set pieces fizzle out or disappear as quickly as they arrived. The characterisation, which again is never McFarlane’s strongest suit anyway, is all over the place. For example, Seyfried’s character is established early on as being pop culture illiterate, yet not long after her introduction she is joining Ted and John in a recreation of the dancing scene from The Breakfast Club, which of course is not a joke, it’s just a reference. Even Mark Wahlberg, who was given the chance to give his character a sense of likability despite the fact he is a stoner idiot in the first film, just looks completely bored and uninterested here, which could be down to the fact that McFarlane has decided that Ted is going to be the main focus of attention in this film, a mistake as Ted is only funny until he is annoying.
Ted 2 is just awful. In a weird way it reminded me of some of the horror films coming out of Hollywood today such as The Conjuring that believes that simple making your audience jump is enough to make a horror film. McFarlane’s approach to comedy is similar, simply throw a load of gags at the audience, story or character be damned, and if the audience laughs then they will believe that they have just watched a comedy. The only difference is that while making someone jump after going boo in a dark room is easy, comedy is a lot more difficult. Actually come to think of it, with Ted 2 McFarlane has made a far more scarier film than The Conjuring and even that isn’t much of an achievement.