There’s jizz, jizz jokes, Chekhov’s jizz storage facility, Tom Brady’s jizz, a Mark Wahlberg covered in jizz photo posted to Facebook, black cock jizz, white cock jizz, indeterminate cock jizz, a dick-shaped bong that totally looks like you’re trying to get the jizz contained within, Winnie-the-Pooh unforgivably associated with a quest for jizz, and romance that probably ends in jizz. It’s a Seth MacFarlane film, or more accurately an extended episode of late-run Family Guy, and so you already know it’s terrible. It is going to make a ton of money and there’ll be sequels. That’s the world we live in now.
Director: Seth MacFarlane
Screenplay: Seth McFarlane, Alec Sulkin, Wellesley Wild.
Runtime: 115 minutes.
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Seth MacFarlane, Amanda Seyfried, Jessica Barth.
Reviewed by Drew Ninnis.
Plot: Fresh off their happy wedding in Ted, the titular talking teddy bear hero (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) and wife Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth) are having problems. Arguing at home, stuck together at work, they predictably decide that a child would solve all their issues. Problem, though, when you are a teddy bear without genitalia – and therefore Ted embarks on a quest with best friend John (Mark Wahlberg) to steal some sperm or secure a donor. When Tami-Lynn proves infertile, adoption is considered. But Ted must first prove he is a person in a court of law, with only inexperienced lawyer Samantha (Amanda Seyfried) to help.
Review: Pity the poor celebrity (no, seriously); for they are not people so much as products. Small economies unto themselves even. And the price at which they purchase their fame is to forgo person-hood. They may not have even consciously made that choice; how could they have known that the feast suddenly arrived at their table one day would turn into an existential famine? Yet, by the time that realisation dawns, other people’s livelihoods depend upon them. The system has too much invested in them. They must renew their currency or face devaluation, which flows on to their many economic dependants.
That’s the only way I can explain to myself the existence and nature of Ted 2, a film I’m betting you knew wasn’t going to be any good anyway. There are two fundamentally surprising things about the latest lemon from the Seth MacFarlane orchard of obviousness – firstly, that it isn’t worse or more outrageous than it actually is, merely bland; and secondly, that so many big stars deign to appear in it. I can only explain the latter in one way – the star’s economic calculus of “hey, it may be terrible, but that won’t land on my shoulders – I’m only in it for a few seconds – and I get my brand back out in front of audience.” You know, collective reasoning that leads to oil spills or airline disasters. Managing the career of a Hollywood star must be like being the brand manager of Coca-Cola with Stevia (sorry, Coca-Cola Life). Yet here appear Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman (in a role painfully, obviously meant for Samuel L. Jackson, who doesn’t play by your fucking rules Hollywood, and now demands a purple lightsaber for every role), Jay Leno in a gay panic joke, and others. So many strange, random others. Plus the very talented, hideously mismanaged Amanda Seyfried who probably hasn’t had the career she thought she would after Mean Girls (I blame Red Riding Hood).
Some of those cameos and character actors will really sting, too. As they appear and attempt interest, one by one, you’ll scream (‘Nana Visitor – nooo!’ ‘Not you too, John Slattery!’ ‘Sam J. Jones, Flash Gordon himself! – no, wait, that one totally makes sense’) as the film mocks your respect for notable, hard working acting talent. Or whatever of it remained after seeing the Entourage film.
You may have noticed I have avoided talking about the film for the first three or so paragraphs. Ah, you caught me, old trick. Guess it is better to grit one’s teeth and dive right in. It’s been a while since I’ve had to deal with a film with this level of overwhelming meh-ness, so bear with me. I’ll try my best to spice it up.
Ted 2 opens with some pointless narration from Patrick Stewart, who I can only assume is imprisoned in some Hannibal-esque basement somewhere by Seth MacFarlane, and only let out to voice American Dad episodes or leave messages on Jack Crawford’s voicemail. It follows the beats of an unhappy marriage between the eponymous Ted and his unobtainable paramour from the previous instalment, Tami-Lynn. The message here is very much that women are to be won, not kept; the switch flipped between prize and shrew is very much rice-confetti activated. The level of tension in their relationship is subtly detailed by numerous lines of dialogue beginning with ‘you’re a fuckin’’ and ending with whatever stuck to the wall in a weed-scented writer’s room. The effect of Ted 2 as an extended Family Guy episode (late Family Guy, not innovative and funny first three seasons Family Guy) is further reinforced by wedding flashbacks, sight gags, and internal non-sequiturs. Oh, and Partick Warburton as one half of a gay couple, delivering the line “He’s a gourmet chef, so he knows how to toss a salad.” He’s speaking of his partner there, but it doesn’t matter – they don’t care how they angle into the obvious joke, and neither should you. We only fleetingly see these characters again at the end, where they are costumed winkingly as characters the actors have played in other, better projects (The Tick and Star Trek TNG / DS9 if you’re interested. Michael Dorn - nooooo!). That’s pretty much all they’ve got.
Everything else that you would expect from a Seth MacFarlane joint is here – from the singing and dancing opener, to the weak race references (including an attempt to circulate the phrase “white nigger,” and a misjudged attempt to liken the condition of one individual/teddy bear to centuries of slavery), to the ADD-joke-machine-minus-the-connective-tissue feel. MacFarlane desperately wants to acquire the stoner film tone of a weed odyssey, but mistakes simply having characters smoke on screen and engage in strained dialogue for the constituent ingredients of an affable, effortless, casual feel cleverly created by the exemplars of the genre. I think he might also believe that the conditions under which the film is written (read: high) will naturally translate into the film itself. Ted 2 is firmly evidence for the prosecution that this is not the case. Oh, and the long show trials – the foremost crutch of the lazy script plotter. Prepare for not one but two New York courtroom trials, argued before a single judge, on Ted’s person-hood and protections under the Constitution. It seems to have occurred to none of the writers that the climax of their film would require a full court of the Supreme Court to determine that fundamental question of constitutional rights. Perhaps Scalia turned down the invitation of a cameo; both sides of the political spectrum can surely agree on the judiciousness of that decision.
But I digress. We wade through jizz, jizz jokes, an attempt to steal Tom Brady’s jizz, the Chekhov’s sperm storage facility conceit, establishing shots that would be more at home in the vocabulary of a 70’s porn film, a montage joke from the vein of montage jokes that Team America definitively made redundant. Lots of intergenerational mean spiritedness between Gens X and Y (when we need to unite against our common enemy, the baby boomers!). There’s a juvenile fascination with vaginas. Really, now I’m just being lazy and listing stuff from my notes – a tactic I’ve used in reviews before, sorry. But it is so hard to put in the effort when the filmmakers obviously haven’t. Let’s leave all of the minor details at this – Ted 2 has the mean-spiritedness of Grand Theft Auto without any of the redeeming sharp observations or satire. The film was, at least, better than Sex Tape but still of the same cloth.
And like Jack Black’s superb scene as a porn website proprietor in Sex Tape, Ted 2 did have some desert oasis moments of funny – it’s a numbers game, I guess, even for the greatest of long shots. My girlfriend liked the jokes about black cocks (they’re always ‘two clicks away’); a reasonable Stephen Tyler burn; a great improv scene where the suggestions range from “9/11” to “Bill Cosby” to “the Offices of Charlie Hebdo”. If you tried really hard, maybe you could liken Ted’s exceptional state before power the law as an odd illustration of Giorgio Agamben’s Homo Sacer. I wouldn’t bother, though. Also, promotional consideration furnished by everyone. It is jock humour clothed in an insincere celebration of nerd culture, capped off by a visit to Comic Con. And an “it’s complicated” Facebook joke. Hey, Seth MacFarlane, 2007 called – they want to prevent all possible futures in which Facebook jokes like that make it into a popular medium.
Sure, there’s lip service to different definitions of the human and a celebration of the individual – but all of that is elided within a product that is aimed at us not as meaningful individuals but as a marketable mass of the same. Films like this show nothing but contempt for the messages they ostensibly wish to express, but we’re probably immune to that dissonance by now. So when the big speech comes, it’s hard not to read it as an unintended critique of the MacFarlane production line itself:
‘Ted, you’re special, you could have been an inspiration to the world, could have been a leader, a role model. Instead you’re Justin Bieber. There’s just no indication you’ve had any positive effect on the world around you.’
Delivered by Morgan Freeman himself, who is becoming a one man rebuttal to the concept of choosing film roles.
The age of the auteur has been replaced by the age of the stoned producer. As denoted by the credits, they have their own ‘Producers Guild of America’ or P.G.A now, trying to lend the impression that they are a profession rather than names attached to a series of bad decisions. Ted 2 closes on a baby doodie joke, and also Liam Neeson eating cereal, because you’ve already seen more than half of the film and aren’t getting your money back. Post-Fordist capitalism, bitches!
Rating: One giant fuck you to non-leukotomised audiences everywhere. Yeah, that’s right, Drew Reviews Things is back.