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David Poland

By David Poland

Review: Ted Again (Ted 2)


A basic rule about narrative art… the first thing with which an audience connects is the heart of what the material is about.

Casablanca is not just a movie about a guy who loves a woman enough to give her up a second time. But that’s the movie.

Batman movies are not just about a guy who lost his parents to violence but can’t do anything except keep fighting for what he sees as justice, never escaping his ghosts. But that’s what the movies are.

Titanic is certainly about more than a great doomed love that survives death, decades and the sinking of the unsinkable ship. But that’s what that movie is.

Ted was a sensational idea to which people could universally relate. What if the childhood toy you were obsessed with not only came to life, but continued to live past his cuteness, your cuteness, and to the point where he was keeping you from becoming an adult? Second layer… he’s a stoner, drunken horndog, which is against the expectations we all have of teddy bears. That second layer knocked a lot of people off the Ted wagon, but there were still tens of millions who were thrilled to go along for that ride.

So what is Ted 2 about?

Almost nothing. There is the pretense that it is about the civil right of Ted to not be considered property… but not really. Writer/Director/Ted-Voice Seth MacFarlane makes it clear that Ted 2 is mostly going to be a series of gags right up front. There is a non-sequitur, unrealistic gag that might work in the middle of the movie, but is right up there. Then Ted has a giant dance number combining Busby Berkeley-style choreography and the CG bear that expresses nothing but MacFarlane’s musical ambition and a bigger budget.

Meanwhile – not spoilers unless you consider the movie’s set-up to be such – Wahlberg’s John Bennett has split from his wife, the marriage to whom was the entire central story of the first film. Just gone. The weird, gross, funny sexual relationship with the dumb blonde cashier, Tami-Lynn (played by Jessica Barth) goes from being bored with one another to boringly married.

In other words, they got rid of the raunch and the sincerity, leaving nothing but jokes.

A few of the jokes are good. The idea of Tom Brady being treated like a horse gone to stud is funny. There’s a daring gag with Amanda Seyfried. Other laughs.

Bur empty calories. Nothing adds to anything. It is the embodiment, however occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, of bad sequelitis.

It finally struck me what might have actually been better, as recapturing a fresh idea in a sequel is really hard. Instead of making a movie about not having a baby… how about a movie about a character like Ted having a baby. Jerky stunted-adolescent guys have kids too… and in the end, if they have love in their hearts, they have to find a way to give it all to the kid(s). Bear, no bear… that is drama (that can be comedic).

But I don’t want to tell them what they should have done… just that what was done just isn’t about anything… not even the raw raunch of the original.

Not terrible. Not good.

6 Responses to “Review: Ted Again (Ted 2)”

  1. EtGuild2 says:

    Agree with this take…but can we talk about the strangest studio movie of 2015? MAX is so strange it’s practically indescribable. A doggie for kids flick that inserts the Taliban, rocket launchers, online piracy and gun trafficking.

  2. Ray Pride says:

    And “From The Director of A PRICE ABOVE RUBIES!”

  3. PcChongor says:

    I’ll take “Samurai Cat” over “PTSD Dog” any day of the week:

  4. Stella's Boy says:

    And “From The Director of A PRICE ABOVE RUBIES!”

    Not to mention it was co-written by the director of Lionheart and Double Impact.

  5. Bulldog68 says:

    I laughed more than this than during Spy, the critically praised comedy this summer. Thought the cameos were good. Not as good as part 1 by any means, but I think that I enjoyed it a bit more than Dave.

    You could tell that they were running out of steam and needed to fill time but I can’t say it was a negative experience.

  6. Hcat says:

    After seeing Shatner interact with him at the oscars I can’t help but imagine that Sam Jones might have been the second choice if Shatner didn’t want to be portrayed as a raging coke maniac. The Unfortunate Ming joke in the original works just as well if not better as Khan.

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This is probably going to sound petty, but Martin Scorsese insisting that critics see his film in theaters even though it’s going straight to Netflix and then not screening it in most American cities was a watershed moment for me in this theatrical versus streaming debate.

I completely respect when a filmmaker insists that their movie is meant to be seen in the theater, but the thing is, you got to actually make it possible to see it in the theater. Some movies may be too small for that, and that’s totally OK.

When your movie is largely financed by a streaming service and is going to appear on that streaming service instantly, I don’t really see the point of pretending that it’s a theatrical film. It just seems like we are needlessly indulging some kind of personal fantasy.

I don’t think that making a feature film length production that is going to go straight to a video platform is some sort of “step down.“ I really don’t. Theatrical exhibition as we know it is dying off anyway, for a variety of reasons.

I should clarify myself because this thread is already being misconstrued — I’m talking about how the movie is screened in advance. If it’s going straight to Netflix, why the ritual of demanding people see it in the theater?

There used to be a category that everyone recognized called “TV movie” or “made for television movie” and even though a lot of filmmakers considered that déclassé, it seems to me that probably 90% of feature films fit that description now.

Atlantis has mostly sunk into the ocean, only a few tower spires remain above the waterline, and I’m increasingly at peace with that, because it seems to be what the industry and much of the audience wants. We live in an age of convenience and information control.

Only a very elite group of filmmakers is still allowed to make movies “for theaters“ and actually have them seen and judged that way on a wide scale. Even platform releasing seems to be somewhat endangered. It can’t be fought. It has to be accepted.

9. Addendum: I’ve been informed that it wasn’t Scorsese who requested that the Bob Dylan documentary only be screened for critics in theaters, but a Netflix representative indicated the opposite to me, so I just don’t know what to believe.

It’s actually OK if your film is not eligible for an Oscar — we have a thing called the Emmys. A lot of this anxiety is just a holdover from the days when television was considered culturally inferior to theatrical feature films. Everybody needs to just get over it.

In another 10 to 20 years they’re probably going to merge the Emmys in the Oscars into one program anyway, maybe they’ll call it the Contentys.

“One of the fun things about seeing the new Quentin Tarantino film three months early in Cannes (did I mention this?) is that I know exactly why it’s going to make some people furious, and thus I have time to steel myself for the takes.

Back in July 2017, when it was revealed that Tarantino’s next project was connected to the Manson Family murders, it was condemned in some quarters as an insulting and exploitative stunt. We usually require at least a fig-leaf of compassion for the victims in true-crime adaptations, and even Tarantino partisans like myself – I don’t think he’s made a bad film yet – found ourselves wondering how he might square his more outré stylistic impulses with the depiction of a real mass murder in which five people and one unborn child lost their lives.

After all, it’s one thing to slice off with gusto a fictional policeman’s ear; it’s quite another to linger over the gory details of a massacre that took place within living memory, and which still carries a dread historical significance.

In her essay The White Album, Joan Didion wrote: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true.”

Early in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters drive up the hill towards Leo’s bachelor pad, the camera cranes up gently to reveal a street sign: Cielo Drive. Tarantino understands how charged that name is; he can hear the Molotov cocktails clinking as he shoulders the crate.

As you may have read in the reviews from Cannes, much of the film is taken up with following DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters – a fading TV actor and his long-serving stunt double – as they amusingly go about their lives in Los Angeles, while Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a relatively minor presence. But the spectre of the murders is just over the horizon, and when the night of the 9th finally arrives, you feel the mood in the cinema shift.

No spoilers whatsoever about what transpires on screen. But in the audience, as it became clear how Tarantino was going to handle this extraordinarily loaded moment, the room soured and split, like a pan of cream left too long on the hob. I craned in, amazed, but felt the person beside me recoil in either dismay or disgust.

Two weeks on, I’m convinced that the scene is the boldest and most graphically violent of Tarantino’s career – I had to shield my eyes at one point, found myself involuntarily groaning “oh no” at another – and a dead cert for the most controversial. People will be outraged by it, and with good reason. But in a strange and brilliant way, it takes Didion’s death-of-the-Sixties observation and pushes it through a hellfire-hot catharsis.

Hollywood summoned up this horror, the film seems to be saying, and now it’s Hollywood’s turn to exorcise it. I can’t wait until the release in August, when we can finally talk about why.

~ Robbie Collin