29 June 2015

First Impressions: TED 2

Welcome to Norwegian Morning Wood's 666th post! That is a tremendous amount of posts, actually. That's really pretty absurd. I wanted to do some post about Hell, maybe a list of my favourite Satans, or just that the weirdest Will Smith movie role ever and have it at that. After seeing TED 2 (2015) this weekend, though, and owing you all my take on it, I really thought the upside-down stars just lined up perfectly. And it's not like I didn't enjoy TED 2, but it was an unequivocally bad movie, and by its nature, enjoying it certainly condones a trip to the Warm Place. Let's get toasty!
I do like how they brought back this actress (Jessica Barth),
for a major role spun off of a joke in the first film

First of all, anyone going into TED 2 had better know what they're getting into. If a long history of Family Guy and ten-thousand other terrible animated shows haven't demonstrated Seth MacFarlane's crass blend of shock humour, consumer comedy, and esoteric vaudeville yet, then certainly the first TED (2012) should have. TED hit like a lightning bolt, a decidedly un-PC look into typical white male Boston life that's...pretty damn accurate, if not exaggerated to the pleasant point of demonstrating on screen a live action cartoon.

That is one thing that both TED films do pretty well; hold up a nice slick look and solid production value. Both films having a slew of A-list stars, this latter one even more so is a treat. It's almost nice to see Seth MacFarlane getting the chance to do real Family Guy-style reference humour, only with live actors like (SPOILER, I guess), Jay Leno and Liam Neeson showing up as themselves to make the joke instead of an animated caricature spouting Seth's malleable voice.

This is actually where TED 2 works really well, and it's also where years ago I realized Family Guy works well: as a sketch comedy. Many moons ago I found myself in a Family Guy YouTube clickhole slugging clip after clip, because it works so well in short little bursts. Little jokes or scene set-ups are fantastic, some with actual insight into either the hypocrisy or just the pop culture dumbness of the age, but rarely do a string of these form any sort of coherent television show. TED was this in some way, but it mostly had some kind of narrative. TED 2 has an extremely loose plot, even if its Civil Rights angle would seem like an important driving force. Instead, this film relishes in getting side-tracked just following its characters' lives. This isn't always terrible, mind you, and a lot of it remains pretty funny, but there's nothing deeper to gain here, despite what should have been a fairly prescient setting ripe for satire.

Seth MacFarlane's humour has been analyzed and criticised pretty thoroughly, so I won't get into that here. Heavy on pointing out references and providing shock value under the guise of knowing better would be better if they weren't winking at the audience so much or did a better job selling their characters as satire. Peter Griffin isn't Archie Bunker. There's no comeuppance or foil, or even consistent characterization to assuage the rampant intolerance that's spewed on a regular basis, even if they pretend to get the audience on their side. And this works when it's funny. TED 2's terribleness works more often than it should because the jokes land really well. But intelligent satire has stronger staying power when it presents something to reflect on, which this film is more than eager to just brush by the wayside.

I can hardly tell which side of the audience MacFarlane is on. He'll straddle bro culture, making a pot-centric Boston asshole movie, but open with a garish musical number that made me think of The French Mistake, because that's my only reference to this kind of thing. But that was broken up by cowboys, because Mel Brooks favors the silly over just fucking with the audience. MacFarlane just likes fucking with the audience and indulging his own bizarre Old Hollywood sensibilities.

There's a lot more to this movie that just ends up kind of off. Amanda Seyfried is regularly refreshing, but in no world would it make sense for a first-time lawyer to whip out a bong and start smoking in front of her first prospective clients. I'm also glad she's become MacFarlane's go to girl for big eye jokes, after she had a similar jokes at her expense in A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014). The pop culture virgin was a nice touch, especially as a foil to the non-stop reference spouting Ted and Mark Wahlberg.

On the latter of that duo, you've got to give him some credit for really going all out in this movie. Being covered in semen, a revealing porn addiction, getting frightened on his way home, and generally acting like a big softie doofus, Wahlberg's John Bennett character is a fairly epic teardown of one of our cooler actors.

There's lots of other little bits here. The Hasbro plug was kind of weird, because even though they may have enjoyed their blatant product placements it was fairly negative. I mean, yeah, Hasbro had a huge part to play in the story, but they were the damn villains. Giovanni Ribisi's return was almost pleasant, if not just for the chance to see him do his signature dance in a full Raphael get-up. That was also the only part of the film that reaked of the plot of its predeceessor, though, which was simultaneously disappointing and a relief that for the most part, they struck new territory.
Thunder buddies for life

The Comic Con scenes in general laid it on a little thick and seemed to be overtly catering to the nerd culture of the day, although they attempted to contrast this through general apathy through Patrick Warburton and Michael Dorn who gave us a quaint meta moment by dressing them up as characters they've both played before, The Tick and Worf. Their weird apathetic gay love was again kind of a miss, and their blatant bullying seemed in bad taste, only because none of it was really funny. I'm all for gay bully jokes, but they've got to be funny enough to transcend the offense. Like Bob & Cedric. Without some kind of inherent goofiness their jokes came off mean instead of funny, which isn't great.

And this is perhaps the most frustrating thing about MacFarlane - he knows goofiness! He has such a high capacity for irreverence and silly! But he waxes his films in these weird tones that stretch too far into territory that can't balance out his shock humour to make it palatable. Despite some terrible editing, strange tones, and next to no plot, I did enjoy TED 2, because it is pretty funny. Sad suggestions at the improv may be the greatest idea ever, but it's jokes like that that are just uproarious with no bearing on character or plot that ultimately bring the movie down. That's the great irony. TED 2's funniest moments invite its doom.

What did you think? Are you all about this foul-mouthed Bostonian Bear or are you over it? Leave a comment!

1 comment:

  1. I also dug the update to the Who Framed Roger Rabbit Shave and a Haircut gag


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