TED 2 (2015 Universal)
Directed by Seth McFarlane
What happens when you let a bunch of now-grown Star Trek nerds from the 80’s make a movie? Apparently, they make Ted. If you let ’em do it twice, you get Ted 2.
I really don’t know how this works, but Ted 2 provides ample proof of its own Trek-nerdiness. Forget the fact that the climax takes place at New York Comic-Con. Do you realize how many Trek actors appear in Ted 2?
- Patrick Stewart (Jean-Luc Picard), as he was in the first Ted, is the narrator. (Don’t forget he is also currently CIA Deputy Director Bulloch on Seth McFarlane’s American Dad! )
- Nana Visitor, better known as Major Kira Nerys on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, is an underrated performer with a good role here. She still looks amazing.
- LeVar Burton (Geordie LaForge) appears in a brief clip from Roots as Kunta Kinte, but I’m still counting it.
- Pushing it here, but Ron Canada (from Canada!), who plays the judge in Ted 2, did guest shots on three different Star Trek series.
- Best of all is Michael Dorn (Lt. Worf) as Rick; gay lover to Patrick Warburton’s Guy. Took me a while to pick up on the fact that it was Michael Dorn. Only when he showed up in uniform at Comic-Con did it sink in!
So: McFarlane likes Star Trek. That’s obvious. He likes a lot of stuff, and Ted 2 is less a story than a running series of references to other movies. From Jurassic Park to the cheesy ending to Contact, these characters walk and talk quoting movies all the friggin’ time. It’s all they do! One thing you will see and hear less of going forward: Star Wars in any McFarlane production. According to the audio commentary, the friendly relationship that Seth used to have with Lucasfilm has vanished since they were sold, and Disney have made it pretty clear that further collaborations will not be happening. So you can kiss the idea of a Family Guy: The Force Awakens goodbye.
Unfortunately, characters that quote stuff is as deep as it gets. Mark Wahlberg’s Johnny has divorced Mila Kunis, because she was trying to change him too much. Well, yeah…that was the whole plot of Ted 1. Wahlberg wanted to grow up and marry Mila. Now he decides that’s actually not what he wanted, after fighting for it so hard in the first movie. In Ted 2, we see Marky Mark hanging around with Ted a lot, and we see him getting into plenty of hijacks, but Mark Wahlberg is little more than a non-character sidekick in this one. Ted is Ted; a foul-mouthed Peter Griffin who gets away with it by being a teddy bear. Newcomer Amanda Seyfried steals the movie with her likeable lawyer character, Sam L. Jackson. And yes, she has not heard of the actor Samuel L. Jackson, nor does she pick up on any of Ted and Johnny’s movie quotes, and that’s the driving force of the trio’s interactions. Seyfried is a wonderfully talented actress with a very expressive face, and she easily outclasses everyone she’s in a scene with (except obviously Morgan Freeman). To her credit she’s a good sport about her famous large blue eyes. They are the butt of a few jokes in the movie — the best ones actually. Seyfried is obviously a good shit and I bet she’s fun to have a beer with. She also gets to sing, and that award-winning voice performs the original theme song “Mean Ol’ Moon”.
The plot, such as it is, was inspired by the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Measure of a Man”; I shit you not. This is even acknowledged by McFarlane in the commentary. Ted and Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth) have been married a while but it’s not working out. So, they do what every struggling couple in America does to heal their relationship: have a kid. At first, you think the movie will be about Ted and Marky Mark getting into hijinks and capers, trying to steal donor sperm from demigods like Tom Brady. Then it awkwardly shifts to a legal slant, with Ted having to prove he is a person and not property in a court, just like Lt. Data did in Star Trek. Data had Captain Picard to defend him, and McFarlane says that Amanda Seyfriend’s opening comments in the courtroom scene were inspired by Picard’s.
In Star Trek, if Data were declared to be property, then Starfleet could have cut him open to mass produce intelligent androids to serve as a working class. In Ted 2, Giovanni Ribisi’s evil Donny wants to do something similar. He convinces Hasbro that they can take Ted, and cut him open to see what makes him tick, and repeat the magic. Billions of dollars would be made. All this hinges on him being declared property in court. There would be few repercussions for Hasbro to steal a teddy bear, compared to a person, to dissect it!
You have to give McFarlane credit for a great Mel Brooks-inspired opening musical number, and a brawl finale. You have to admire Amanda Seyfried’s abilities, and Pantene Pro V-perfect hair. Otherwise Ted 2 is a lazy retread. I don’t mean “lazy” in the sense that it wasn’t hard work. It clearly was hard work making this movie, doing the perfect CG bear and motion capture. The reason we don’t talk about the bear much is that he seems perfectly real at all times. No, I mean “lazy” in the writing. There are plenty of funny jokes, situations, and lines. There are no characters we care or even know much about. How did Seyfried’s Sam, age 26, become a lawyer who can play guitar and sing better than 95% of the ladies currently in the top 40, all while suffering debilitating migraines that require her to constantly smoke marijuana? How??? It’s hard to get involved in the characters when they’re so obviously not human, and I’m not referring to Ted! How does Marky Mark support himself? Does he still have a job? We never see him at work.
Best gag: A Liam Neeson cameo. Stay tuned for the post credit scene.
Special features: Unrated version of the movie, audio commentary, gag real, deleted scenes (mostly alternate lines from scenes in the movie), and plenty of making-of featurettes. The “Creating Comic-Con” feature was interesting, from a Trek nerd point of view. Check out how they made that giant starship Enterprise that hangs from the ceiling. It’s just based on a model that McFarlane had on his desk!
Blu-ray annoyance: These text info-boxes advertising other movies pop up on every menu, unless you specifically look for the setting that turns them off. That’s…mildly vexatious.
Joke tagline: Ted 2 – more of the same, but now with Seyfried! Whose last name I can now pronounce correctly, thanks to the commentary.