DIR: Seth MacFarlane • WRI: Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, Wellesley Wild • PRO: Jason Clark, John Jacobs, Seth MacFarlane, Scott Stuber • DOP: Michael Barrett • ED: Jeff Freeman • MUS: Walter Murphy • CAST: Seth MacFarlane, Liam Neeson, Mark Wahlberg, Amanda Seyfried
Every comedy needs a sequel. This much is true. Regardless of how one-note the comedic premise of a movie is, a joke is a joke, and should rightly have every last granule of life strained from it to take the maximum amount of profit from those only too content to spend money on seeing it.
Ted is no different. Ted is a cute teddy bear that sounds like Peter Griffin who constantly has filth seeping from his furry mouth. In and of itself alone, that is the alpha and omega of Comedy, the abso-laugh. It is hilarity defined. And, surely enough, Seth McFarlane’s comedic conveyer belt of a mind doesn’t fail to let us down here as the film opens. We find our cute cuddly curmudgeon being married to the tickelingly trashy Tammy-Lynn from the first movie. Does he take the bride? ‘You betchya f**kin’ ass I do’ says Ted. He’s in a church saying that! Outrageous. He’s a teddy bear.
As we cut to the opening titles, we are treated to Ted in an elaborate ballroom dancing number with a flurry of human dancers. There’s no jokes or comedic mis-steps involved here, per se. Indeed, there’s barely any discernible skill on show, it’s just a standard ballroom dancing scene. But as an idea, it is show-stoppingly hilarious. Close your eyes and imagine a teddy bear ballroom dancing. If you’re not smiling, you’re an idiot.
Some of the comedy in this movie is so cerebral I couldn’t quite figure out when I was meant to laugh. Like in the scene where Liam Neeson makes his cameo. He’s buying cereal at the store, and is dubious about purchasing it because it’s generally considered to be made for kids. There was a joke in there somewhere (and I fully intend on paying to see the movie again so I can understand it), but I laughed anyway because I saw Liam Neeson.
The best running joke from the movie is a testament to McFarlane’s forensic comedic eye as he notices that a certain appendage enjoys quite a prevalence on the internet. So, any time a Google search is invoked into the narrative, the characters are invariably directed to a particular website. When you see the film you’ll understand. And, of course, nothing makes anything funnier than some casual racial stereotyping.
It was also refreshing to see another comedy where all the best gags were included in the trailer. The only reason I went to see this movie was so I could witness Marky Mark being saturated in bodily fluid on the big screen. He is absolutely drenched in the stuff. Thank heavens that was in the trailer. Name one Charlie Chaplin movie that has a main character drowned in bodily fluid. You can’t. Because even Chaplin could never think to do something that funny.
Scenes involving weed and people being high are also inherently funny. Ted 2 is full of them and is much the better for it. Amanda Seyfried smokes bongs (that way, we know we’re meant to like her), they smoke bongs in the library, in the park. If you see a bong in movie you actually have a civic duty to laugh. At one point, the characters are forced to spend the night in a field full of pot plants – and then they actually get stoned on the pot plants. Who does that?! However, it isn’t until Amanda Seyfreid takes out a bong that is shaped like a certain piece of male genitalia that this movie comes into its own. It simply transcends wit.
I have untold affection for this film. I haven’t even got the time to go into the complex plot (Ted has to prove he’s human), because the amount of sheer comic gold that’s littered throughout. Ted 2 has reinvented the comedy genre for the better.
And if you haven’t realized I’m being sarcastic, then you would genuinely love Ted 2.
DIR: Seth MacFarlane • WRI: Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, Wellesley Wild • PRO: Jason Clark, Seth MacFarlane, Joseph J. Micucci, Scott Stuberf • ED: Jeff Freeman • DOP. Michael Barrett • DES: Stephen J. Lineweaver • MUS: Joel McNeely • CAST: Charlize Theron, Neil Patrick Harris, Sarah Silverman, Seth MacFarlane
I was nervously excited when first I heard that Seth MacFarlane would turn his hand to live-action parody. I enjoy parody with affection; think The Cornetto Trilogy or even Family Guy’s Star Wars spin-offs, which George Lucas himself was so happy with he let them use the music. I was slightly more nervous when I learnt MacFarlane would be tackling the Western genre. Would saddles blaze?
Saddles do not even smoulder.
Arizona, 1882: Everyman Albert Stark (MacFarlane) loses his sweetheart Louise (Amanda Seyfried) to Neil Patrick Harris’ moustache enthusiast. Albert mopes about with his mate (Giovanni Ribisi) until Charlize Theron arrives in town and provides Albert with a man-makeover, let’s hope her husband Clinch (Liam Neeson) doesn’t arrive before the third act. That would be inappropriate.
This is awful. When serious films fail to this extent it is often funny but when your aim is to be funny the failure seems all too serious. The whole film feels like sitting through a dinner party with David Brent knowing you’ll have to ask him for a favour at some point. At one point Albert literally stops the action to explain a joke he has just made.
I could banter on extensively about the many (million) ways A Million Ways bothered me but that would likely get as boring as the film. I counted six laughs:, a cinema snack I’d like a go at (sugared butter shavings), a cameo too good for this film and a psychedelic sequence narrated by Patrick Stewart in the entertainment corner. At a stretch that will soak up six minutes of this dull-fest, which borders on two hours. It’s Alvy Singer in the Old West without the loveable neurosis. It’s low-brow humour with no wit or reason-for-being.
It’s a million ways to tell the same bad joke. In the West. Don’t listen.
DIR: Seth MacFarlane • WRI: Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, Wellesley Wild • PRO: Jason Clark, John Jacobs, Seth MacFarlane, Scott Stuber, Wellesley Wild • DOP: Michael Barrett • ED: Jeff Freeman • DES: Stephen J. Lineweaver • CAST: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane
Back when he was a boy, John Bennett (Wahlberg) made a Christmas wish: for his new teddy bear to come alive and be his bestest ever friend. Amazingly, that wish came true and Ted (voiced by MacFarlane) was an instant celebrity (for a while at least), but never stopped doing his job: being John’s best ted.
John is now 35, and he’s been going out with Lori (Kunis) for four years. She’s got a proper office job and a boss (Seth McHale) who fancies her, while John is always late for work at his crappy car rental place. The reason? He’s always partying or messing around with Ted, and while Lori certainly has a sense of humor, she does think that maybe it’s time to grow up a bit. You know, maybe stop playing with the teddy bear and put down the bong once in a while?
So eventually, Ted moves out and gets his own place. He decorates it courtesy of Ikea, gets a supermarket job and even a ditzy blond girlfriend. But best buds are best buds – fur or no fur – and John keeps being drawn back into Ted’s wild world. When he skips out on Lori at an important office do in order to meet his and Ted’s all-time movie superhero in the flesh (I won’t spoil it for you, but it’s someone from the 1980s), Lori has had enough. John and Ted fall out too – a great fight in a hotel room – but can John man up, win Lori back and still be friends with Ted?
As you can tell, Ted is a pretty simple story. Director/co-writer/co-producer/Ted’s voice Seth MacFarlane is the driving force behind Family Guy, the snappier, sharper and cruder modern version of The Simpsons, and fans will recognize many of the actors here by their voices and be very familiar with the non-sequiturs, 80s references, spoofs, musical cues and, of course, a spicy dash of offensiveness (some of which is laugh-out-loud, even when it’s throwaway).
Therein lie the strengths – and weaknesses – of Ted, and sadly the latter outweigh the former. The story is so slight, the focus so awkwardly bouncing between the conventional romcom/drama story of John and Lori and the inherent humour in (and desire to see) a crude, talking bear. The two just don’t blend well in that way, and with so many ideas left hanging or included for no apparent reason other than a gag (and one particular one involving Ted that seemed a last minute idea about ‘who’s the bad guy?’), it all falls rather flat.
Ultimately, if you’re a Family Guy fan – and I am – you’re going to enjoy this just enough; it really is essentially just Peter Griffin and Brian the dog in disguise. If not, then you might find it a rather tedious mess; these characters come from a mind that’s used to writing 22-minute television programmes that have to go to the break on a joke or a cliffhanger; a film requires much more than that.