By Kyle G. King. From the Golem of Jewish folklore, to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, to the classic story of Pinocchio, the age-old story of giving life to the lifeless has ranged diversely in themes and analysis. The device invariably acts as commentary on the spectacle and capacity of the human condition within its particular time. And in a true reflection of 21st century zeitgeist, Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane puts forth the parable of a talking teddy bear from Boston who says fuck a whole lot, and does that air-humping thing when women aren’t looking like he’s pretending to have sex with them. This simple, marketable, (some might say obtuse) premise apparently spoke to our generation so very richly that MacFarlane has blessed the archive of cinema with a second helping of this fuzzy farcical franchise, plainly titled Ted 2.
Things are much different for “thunder-buddies” Ted (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) and John (Mark Wahlberg) since their fun times with Lori years ago. Still emotionally recovering from his divorce six months prior, John stands as best man at the wedding of Ted and Tami-Lynn, (Jessica Barth, reprising her foul-mouthed Bostonian role from the first Ted) unenthusiastically revisiting the holy sanctity of marriage. Porn addicted and entirely disinterested in romance, John’s former leading-man status dwindles to mere companion as Ted 2 favors more its titular star. After Ted’s “personhood” is called into jeopardy when he and Tami-Lynn vie for adopting a child, Ted takes on the services of young lawyer/pot head Samantha (Amanda Seyfried) to fight against the state of Massachusetts for Ted’s citizenship (somehow unchecked his entire lifespan).
MacFarlane uses the legislative tug-of-war between Ted’s alleged rights as a person – or that of property – to draw parallels between the issues surrounding the emancipation proclamation and the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. But before you get your hopes up with how remarkably clever that idea could play out to be, understand that Seth MacFarlane’s idea of exploring issues of race travel not a millimeter further than simply putting people of color on screen to be the butt of the joke. While movies like last year’s Dear White People approach the race conversation with an intelligent understanding of what should be laughed at and what should be talked about, MacFarlane showcases that he can still only rely on shallow shock-value humor, with cartoonish scenes dependent on flashback bit comedy. While still struggling with skillfully handling large-format storytelling, it’s very plausible Ted 2 could be condensed and adapted as an episode of Family Guy with Brian the dog at the center.
Along with the broader conversation of racism, Ted 2 also lacks any conviction or respect for even itself as it sets out to undo what the first film spent its running time establishing. While John and Lori’s break up – whose relationship was the payoff in the first film – can be simply explained as Mila Kunis’ inability to return, the bigger eraser at work is Ted’s existence to the world at large. One of the most interesting and original parts of the first film was that this talking teddy bear wasn’t something that only John could see and interact with, but the whole world knew about and accepted – allowing Ted’s characterization to truly be a reflection of humanity. But the sequel, in a strange turn to possibly evolve itself (or possibly just lazy screenwriting) flips its most interesting notion upside down and simply hits it like a piñata. There’s no intelligent conversation at play: Ted 2 simply wants your laughs, and MacFarlane’s tone deaf sensibilities remain boundless yet uninteresting to watch.
Exploring the humor of race is something that we as a nation are still trying to handle, and comedies setting out to help us chew that confusion certainly have their place in cinema – a fantastic example being Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles. But instead of engaging or attempting to understand racial issues and people of color, Ted 2 merely appropriates the existing condition to point and laugh at. The film demonstrates it has no perspective of anything outside of itself, and wastes 115 minutes of offensive humor alienating anyone who is not a straight, able-bodied white man (preferably from the New England area and who has never been sexually assaulted). Your fanbase is narrow, Mr. MacFarlane, and with such inconsiderate and unintelligent material to offer, it can only continue to shrink and shrink. We don’t dish out a star rating here at DoomRocket – which is fortunate, since I would have none to spare this regurgitated pile of stoner frat-boy garbage that Seth MacFarlane squandered $85 million on. Good day.