Review – Surprisingly Bearable (“Ted 2”)

Having to nix their original plotline (We’re The Millers already did it), writers Seth MacFarlane (who also directed), Alec Sulkin, and Wellesley Wild (all from TV’s Family Guy), had to revert to plan B and cull together a brand new plot involving bits of the first movie and an inconsequential sub-plot. One only imagines if that original movie idea would have made a better picture.

Ted, the F-bomb spewing, pot-smoking loving talking teddy bear (voiced by MacFarlane) met his girlfriend, Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth), at the local Boston grocery store where they worked in the first movie. They got married by Flash Gordon himself, Sam Jones, and all is well. . . until three years later when married life is stressing them out. Hoping a baby will improve their love-life and marriage, they seek a sperm donor, since Ted can’t… y’know… he’s a doll!

Helping Ted is his best “thunder-buddy”, John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg). Together they try to get sperm from noted quarterback Tom Brady, but that doesn’t quite work out. Further problems arise when Tami-Lynn can’t conceive and adoption is impossible because Ted is considered property, not human by the State. Soon Ted’s very life is put on trial and the only one who’ll take the bizarre case is a newbie lawyer named Samantha L. Jackson (Amanda Seyfried). She’s also a pot-smokin’, foul-mouthed, party lover like the guys, so they hit it off right away.

Meanwhile, creepy psychopath and Ted-obsessed Donny (Giovanni Ribisi) from the first movie, now works as a janitor for Hasbro Toys, the toy company that made the Ted teddy bears. He offers the company president (John Carol Lynch) a deal: make sure Ted IS property, steal him, and then dissect him to make other taking Ted’s! The deal is struck and super-lawyer Shep Wild (John Slattery) wins the case, taking Ted’s legal life away from him. But hope blossoms as Samantha contacts famed NYC civil rights attorney Patrick Meighan (Morgan Freeman) who agrees to appeal Ted’s case. Can you say, “road trip”?

After a stop over in a marijuana field (and a delicious Jurassic Park parody), they make it to NYC, but Ted gets separated from Samantha and John at a Comic-Con convention where they meet their gay Boston friends, Guy and Rick (Patrick Warburton and Michael Dorn) dressed up as The Tick and Star Trek’s Worf! (Yes, they played those characters on TV). The climatic ending is strained and tacked-on as to ensure the happy ending, but the fight scene inside Comic-Con is a hoot with all the sci-fi, fantasy, and comic book people beating the crap out of each other.

MacFarlane and his writing team spare no expense here with their insults. No one is safe. F-bombs and racial slurs aside, some jokes are truly tasteless, offensive, and ill-timed (Robin Williams. 9/11. Ferguson. Really, guys?). But that’s MacFarlane as his “wet spaghetti” philosophy of humor: throw as many jokes at the screen and see what sticks. Don’t get me wrong, this movie was hysterical as times (the right times) and had me laughing WAY too much. Liam Neeson’s cameo appearance, for example, almost made me laugh up a lung. The opening dance number was amazing, and the ribald parodies from Raging Bull to Lord of the Rings were brilliant and sometimes even shocking, and the fact that nobody even thinks twice about a talking bear is funny enough.

Wahlberg is great here, sans Mila Kunis, who dropped out of the picture (her character divorced him and took off), while Seyfried is delightfully goofy as Wahlberg’s other puzzle-piece; she’s a perfect fit. And you got to hand it to all the actors making fun of themselves (Dorn, Warburton, Brady, Neeson, etc), to make this movie even funnier.

For a two hour movie is does go on a bit longer than it should, and the story does drag, but hey, there’s a lot of comedy gold in that time. The original movie was much longer (see the trailers for the extra scenes), including a gag with David Hasselhoff and KITT that was cut and will probably turn up on the extended Blu-ray editions. Looks like they hassled the Hoff!           

Howard the Duck (1986)

Ted, meet Howard, a talking anamorphic duck from a parallel universe. In George Lucas’ darkest days, this quirky little Marvel comic book came to life and was rumored to be his revenge against Universal Pictures, knowing full well it would bomb big time. And bomb it did! BIG TIME!

Based on the subversive comic book, this movie (which had no sharp humor or zany characters like its namesake) was shot with six actors inside a rubber anamatronic duck suit (no, silly, not all at once), with Chip Zien as the voice of Howard. Written by Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz, who clearly never read the comic books, this was originally meant to be an animated feature, but the studios wanted real actors. Oy!

So, ya got Howard Duckowitz who lives on Duckworld, his home planet of all ducks, and is accidentally transported via wormhole to Earth, thanks to a dimensional-jumping device invented by goofy scientist, Phil Blumburtt (Tim Robbins). Once here (and no one really notices that he’s a talking 3-ft tall duck!), Howard makes friends with a struggling rock singer named Beverly Switzler (Lea Thompson). Beverly happens to know the doofus Phil, but he can’t figure how Howard got here. After a tiff, Beverly and Howard split, forcing the frustrated fowl to get a job in a local spa, but he quits to be Beverly’s new band manager.

Afterwards, he and Beverly make up, in a cringe-worthy scene of ‘girl-on-duck’ action that makes you want to cry fowl! (Sorry!) But, before anything happens (thank God!), Phil and his colleague, Dr. Walter Jennings (Jeffrey Jones) race in and say they figured a way to get Howard back home! But! Their experiments unleash a powerful life form known as the Dark Overlord Of The Universe, and possess Dr. Jennings, turning him into a raving looney. Will Phil and Beverly get Howard home? Will they defeat the evil whatchamacallit? Will Howard the Duck show up again as a CG cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy, giving truth to the rumor of a Howard the Duck reboot? Yup! 

Directed by Huyck (one of Lucas’ best friends and co-writers), this was the last film he ever directed. Ever. Pretty much a career-killer, huh? The direction was sloppy, silly, and amateurish. This, plus a terrible script, a horrible concept, and four producers who actually thought this was going to be a “fun adaption of the comic book” doomed this project. Lucas was banking on the book’s noir look and abstract, sideways humor. Sorry, George, ya got this unfunny and unwatchable mess instead.

Critical response was overwhelming and pretty much the same: everyone hated this movie. It was torn to shreds by the critics and lost millions for Universal Studios. Oddly enough, the principles (Thompson, Zien, Jones, and Robbins) all went on to have terrific careers after this stinker and were not “cursed” by the movie’s reputation. On the plus side, it did sweep the 1987 Golden Raspberry Awards, winning a staggering seven awards (Worst Movie to Worst Director), and have a bit of a cult following, so that’s something, I guess