2. Fields Of Dreams
3. Natural, The
4. Eight Men Out
5. Rookie, The
It’s been previously stated that I love baseball movies, plain and simple. Admittedly, while Moneyball is laced with comedy, it is technically a drama. The same can be said for everything penned by Aaron Sorkin. I really enjoy fact based sports films even if there are some liberties taken with the story. Case in point, Jonah Hill’s character doesn’t exist. He’s inspired by someone else who actually joined the team before the timeline of the movie. Field of Dreams is beautiful. The ending gets me every time, hard. Remove it from the film and place it into another genre, and I’d think it was hokey. But there’s something very poignant about a simple game of catch. The Natural seems very far-fetched and yet it plays out so realistically you think that it’s based on fact. The final sequence still gives me shivers. The exploding lights, the crowd cheering, the swelling score, all perfect. Eight Men Out is the true story of the 1919 Chicago White Sox which of course, inspired Field Of Dreams. Much like The Natural, a terrific ensemble cast. The Rookie is another addition to the long line of inspirational true stories churned out my Disney and like the others, I was sucked in. This one seemed to take less liberties. However, Dennis Quaid (who’s great in the role) is much older than his real life counterpart so you think of him as older and so the story loses a bit if you were to read about the guy’s actual age.
Footnote – Although 61* missed the cut, it is a fantastic baseball from director Billy Crystal about the race to beat Babe Ruth’s long-standing single season home run record between Mickey Mantle (Thomas Jane) and Roger Maris (Barry Pepper). This would easily make my top 5, but I’m restricting the lists to theatrical films only and this one was made for HBO.
Missed The Cut: 61*, 42, The Babe & Blood Games
In 2012, a movie about a foul-mouthed, talking teddy bear was a sleeper hit. In 2015, Universal is hoping that lightning will strike twice for the Thunder Buddies. The film opens with Ted (voiced again by the director and co-writer, Seth MacFarlane) and his girlfriend from the original, Tami-Lynn (played by Jessica Barth whom doesn’t appearance to have worked since the last movie) are getting hitched with the ceremony being performed by Sam J. Jones (Flash Gordon). At the wedding reception, we learn that John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) had been divorced from Lori (Mila Kunis) for six months. Not sure why she was written out. Perhaps there were scheduling conflicts, maybe it was because of her pregnancy or maybe she saw A Million Ways To Die In The West. It was more than likely the second reason, but it allowed the writers have it that John hasn’t changed at all and he is still a stoner/slacker.
The movie then fasts forward to a year after the wedding and the marriage seems to already be on the rocks. As all failing unions do, they decide to have a baby to help rekindle the love they have for each other. Since Ted is sans wang, they have to go the sperm donor route which involves a pretty amusing heist attempt of a pro footballer’s semen as well as a Three Stooges like visit to a sperm bank strictly for gross-out purposes. Dennis Haysbert shows up as their fertility doctor and discusses his displeasure with Tami’s uterus. It appears Tami could not carry the child even if they were able to find a suitable donor. Adoption is their only hope now.
The plot of the movie kicks in during the adoption proceedings. It was revealed that Ted can not adopt since he is not a person, and according to the government, he is deemed as property. This alerts other agencies and everything in his name gets revokes, his marriage is annulled and he loses his job. This forces Ted’s hand and with John’s help they intend to fight the government all the way to the top; all the way to Judge Judy if necessary. And that’s the gist of the movie. The rest of the film just goes from scene to scene looking for and trying to set up the next series of jokes. Don’t get me wrong, most of the jokes are funny and a lot of those are very funny.
Enter Samantha Jackson (Amanda Seyfried), and yes her middle starts with an “L”. She’s a junior attorney who’s just out of law school and has been assigned to try the case pro bono by her uncle. Oh, and to mend the broken heart of John. I apologize if you didn’t see that coming before even entering the theatre. Fortunately for Ted and John, she smokes pot and she’s willing to put up with all of their shit and shenanigans even though she’s not being paid. Aside from lawyering, she’s present to be the butt of their jokes, and this time around instead of John rising to the woman’s level, she has to stoop to his. They also manage to stumble across a guitar which gives the filmmakers as excuse to pad the running time by having Samantha sing which does lead to a funny Disney inspired woodland creature scene.
As thin as the plot is, it does manage a subplot. The Ted obsessed man boy, Donny, (Giovanni Ribisi) returns and he’s still yearning for Ted. He finds himself employed at Hasbro as a custodian and purveyor of “fresh cakes”. Donny fan-dangles his way into a meeting with the president of Hasbro and presents some cockamamie plot to capture and duplicate the talking teddy so that he can finally have a Ted of his own. If you’re wondering if they do a callback to Donny’s Tiffany Dance. Yes they do and sadly, it seems so forced.
Along the way, the movie is chock full of cameos. Some don’t work, while others do. Jimmy Kimmel doesn’t while surprisingly, Jay Leno does. The cast of SNL doesn’t, Patrick Warburton does. He, of course, is a returnee from the original. Still a friend of John and Ted’s and I assume still a co-worker of John’s? It’s never mentioned whether or not he is still employed at the rental car dealership. While funny, Warburton’s (and his new boyfriend’s) appearance only exists for the fan boy reference payoff near the end. However, early in the movie comes a scene of pure magic. It comes out of nowhere; it’s totally ridiculous; it does nothing to further the plot, but if they’d removed the scene you’d be missing one of the greatest cameo ever, Liam Neeson. He’s so deadpan and so funny. If you doubt his comedic ability, do yourself a favour and watch his appearance on Ricky Gervais’ series, Life’s Too Short.
The movie weaves its way through the comedy traffic. Sometimes they miss, and sometimes they hit dead on. There’s some funny running gags involving Google searches, candy dishes and Gollum as well as a well timed homage to Jurassic Park. Finally, we arrive at the ending and there’s one more familiar face and voice, Morgan Freeman. It’s not a surprise. His name is in the opening credits. He plays a top civil rights lawyer and it’s a pretty thankless role. I see it as stunt casting. Freeman’s presence is a blatant attempt to give the role more weight and help give the ending more emotional heft. He’s also there for comedic relief so he can swear and be sworn at.
The movie is clearly not as good as the first. There are longer lapses between the jokes and not all of them work, but when they hit, they hit hard. Not that I look for believably in a movie featuring a talking teddy bear who is only alive because of a young boy’s wish, but I wish they would have had a little plausibility with a couple of the authority figures. For example, the first judge (Ron Canada) was very funny, but there’s no way most of the procedures in that trial would have been allowed. And then there’s a bit at the end that requires some assistance from a doctor. Again, no way this would ever happen. However, the doctor delivers a line that makes up for it. All in all, it was better than I was expecting while being exactly what I expected at the same time. It probably had 3 endings too many. Is it crucial to have seen the first one to enjoy it? No, but if you didn’t see the first one, why are you only coming to the party now? Ted 1.0 fans will be satisfied leaving the theatre but it won’t have the staying power as the original.