Ted 2 (2015)
Directed by: Seth MacFarlane
Premise: A sequel to the 2012 film. Ted the talking teddy bear gets married but for his nuptials to remain legal he must prove his personhood in a court of law.
What Works: Seth MacFarlane has a dedicated fan base who enjoys his brand of humor and viewers who have turned Family Guy and The Cleveland Show into hit television shows will probably enjoy Ted 2. The humor of the movie is hit and miss—mostly miss—but in the rare instance that a joke lands it really works. Case in point is a cameo by Liam Neeson in which the actor sends up his action movie persona. Like the original film, the banter between Ted and his lifelong friend John (Mark Wahlberg) continues to be the strongest element of the movie. Wahlberg and the rest of the cast deserve some credit for the way they’ve committed to the silly premise as do the special effects crew who pull off the illusion of a walking and talking teddy bear and make it visually convincing.
What Doesn’t: Ted 2 is an example of Seth MacFarlane’s best and worst instincts but the worse elements of the movie weigh it down. MacFarlane is a smart guy, evidenced by his work on the television show Cosmos, but he’s also lazy and at every turn MacFarlane’s sloth gets the better of him. Ted 2 is stunningly unfocused and without a reason to exist. The original Ted wasn’t really about a sentient teddy bear; it was about Mark Wahlberg’s character escaping adult adolescence and learning to be a man. The sequel negates most of what the first movie accomplished; man and bear are back to their pot smoking slob routines. The focus of Ted 2 shifts from Wahlberg’s character to his plush ursidae pal but the filmmakers aren’t quite sure what movie they intend to make. At first Ted 2 is about marital problems between the bear and his wife (Jessica Barth), then it’s about the two of them attempting to have a child, and then it’s about Ted having to prove his personhood in court. When the movie finally settles on the civil rights plot very little of the subsequent action is actually relevant to that premise. Instead MacFarlane falls back on his usual technique of cramming the movie with pop culture references that are apropos of nothing and that go on way too long. Among the retro set pieces are recreations of the montage from The Breakfast Club and the driving sequence from Planes, Trains & Automobiles; no one under thirty years old is going to recognize these references but far worse is that there is no joke. The moviemakers expect us to laugh on the basis of recognition alone. There is no purpose to these scenes except to inflate the length of the movie. Ted 2 runs just short of two hours and there is no reason for it to be that long especially when there is so much downtime between laughs. When Ted 2 isn’t restaging movie scenes from three decades ago it’s full of coarse humor. Sophomoric jokes are fine but they are done here with little imagination; the signature gag of the movie, in which a supply of sperm donations fall open on Wahlberg’s character, is actually recycled from an episode of Family Guy. The rest of the jokes of Ted 2 are based on deliberate political incorrectness, with Ted making sexist, racist, and otherwise insensitive remarks. It’s supposed to be edgy but it’s just pigheaded. When that humor is juxtaposed with the civil rights plotline it’s clear that MacFarlane intends to follow the path blazed by Matt Stone and Trey Parker in South Park and Team America but he’s not up to the task. The civil rights story of Ted 2 is positioned to be a metaphor for immigration or gay rights but MacFarlane isn’t skilled as a satirist and the movie has nothing to say about its subject and so Ted 2 cheapens serious issues instead of lampooning them.
Bottom Line: Ted 2 is a disaster. It’s intermittently funny but it’s also extraordinarily lazy. The only reason this movie exists is because the first Ted made a lot of money and it’s clear that the filmmakers put no more thought into it than that.
Episode: #550 (July 12, 2015)