Hello, readers! Today, we’re proud to introduce the first installment of our “What to Watch for Wednesdays” series. Every hump day, we’ll tell you about the movies, television shows, documentaries, and multimedia videos on our radar. That way, you can wet those impossible-to-satiate viewing appetites as the weekend approaches!
We’ll kick things off with a review of Ted 2 (Warning: Contains Spoilers).
Seth MacFarlane returns to write and direct the highly anticipated (among Family Guy fans) second film of his Ted franchise. He brings the typical MacFarlane no holds barred, anything goes brand of humor that might push the boundaries a little too far. There are moments of tear-jerking hilarity, and the movie certainly receives a ten on the outrageous scale.
That being said, Ted 2 fails to live up to its predecessor. This shouldn’t come as a surprise given that no sequel is ever as good as the original (sorry, not even 22 Jump Street). The characters, jokes, and cameos are there, but the movie lacks novelty. A foul-mouthed teddy bear just isn’t as funny and fresh the second time around. Not to mention, its over-indulgence of masculinity would surely alienate any female viewer.
Even so, the Thunder buddies still provide plenty of laughs. John (Mark Walberg) and Ted (MacFarlane) get into all of their usual shenanigans, including an extremely sticky mishap at the local sperm bank and a heist attempt gone awry at Tom Brady’s house.
The funniest scene in Ted 2 came early on, which featured an exchange between Ted and a man with “a very particular set of skills.” However, the guest appearances came and went quickly, causing the film to gradually lose its momentum.
MacFarlane actually presents an intriguing premise. Ted is not allowed to marry, have a job, and adopt a child (among other things) because the law considers him to be an object. John and Ted enlist the legal aid of an inexperienced lawyer, Samantha (Amanda Seyfried), who argues that Ted does indeed have human feelings and emotions. For that reason, he deserves basic rights just like everyone else.
When the jury decides in favor of the prosecution (i.e. that Ted is not a human being), the trio turns to the support of super lawyer, Patrick Meighan (Morgan Freeman).
Here’s where things get dicey.
In his statement, Meighan claims that Ted’s fight for civil liberties is reminiscent of black peoples’ fight for freedom over a century ago. Blacks were enslaved and thus objectified, and Meighan worries that Ted will suffer a similar fate if deemed a possession in need of ownership.
While the entire movie dances around the proverbial line in matters related to gender, race, and sexuality, it is MacFarlane’s comparison of Ted to black people and slavery that crosses it. The analogy is downright offensive, and what makes things more uncomfortable is the actor who gives the deciding speech.
Morgan Freeman plays an attorney in Steven Spielberg’s historical narrative Amistad (1997), set in the mid-1800s. Freeman’s character helped defend black men from Sierra Leone who were captured and sold into slavery. Amistad is known for being a white savior film since former president John Quincy Adams is called upon to ultimately free the Africans. The movie is essentially about white lawyers and the American judicial system, rather than the event it’s actually based on—the rebellion aboard the Amistad ship.
Freeman’s humorous role in Ted 2 is eerily similar to his serious role in Amistad. This time, however, it is Freeman—a black man—who must come in and make the save. In the film, MacFarlane portrays him as successfully grasping the general (i.e. white) understanding of equality. Blacks are equal to whites, and whites are equal to blacks. Even blue people are equal to green people. Put simply, everyone is equal.
By associating Ted’s fictional struggle with the centuries-long African American struggle for freedom and civil rights (characterized by abuse, violence, and racism), MacFarlane (via Freeman) diminishes the efforts of real human beings to attain equality. It’s difficult to interpret MacFarlane’s objective with the ridiculous connection. If it was meant to be funny, the joke fell flat.
Furthermore, MacFarlane’s trivialization of the abolition of slavery demonstrates that the highly influential media is totally ignorant when it comes to representing race in a positive way. We need to dig deeper than the “everyone is equal” mantra. Just because people of every color are promised equal rights and protection under the law, it doesn’t mean that racism is gone.
Ted 2 buys into the notion that we live in a society that has overcome racism. Recent acts of police brutality—committed by white officers against black citizens—and the shooting at the church in South Carolina prove otherwise. There is still much to talk about in regard to race relations, and the media needs to be better about their methods of representation and fostering healthy discussions.
1) How funny is Ted 2?
Very funny, but not nearly as funny as the original.
2) What should I know going in?
Expect laughs, obscenities, and dialogue that push the boundaries (could offend some).
3) Is it worth the thirteen bucks?
If you’re bargaining for a comedy, yes. If you’re looking for a “good” film, probably not. Wait until it’s on Netflix or HBO, unless you’re a Seth MacFarlane guy or gal (i.e. someone who likes Ted, Family Guy, American Dad, etc.).