Film Review – Ted 2
I don’t know what to make of Seth MacFarlane. Here’s a guy with boyish good looks, who has a talent as a voice actor and comedian, and who clearly has a fondness for old time Hollywood musicals, yet he seems almost unable to keep his mind out of the gutter. His rude, crude, scatological sense of humor is both his biggest strength and his biggest weakness. When it works, it can be very funny. When it doesn’t, it falls so flat that it’s almost unbearable. Unfortunately, Ted 2 (2015) falls into the latter category.
A lot of the reason why Ted (2012) worked was based on its gimmick. Seeing a cute, cuddly Teddy bear (voiced by MacFarlane) speak and act in profane ways was so preposterous that it was kind of endearing. There was a good-natured layer hidden beneath the rough exterior. This element is completely missing from Ted 2; the gimmick has worn out its welcome. There’s nothing wrong with characters saying offensive things if done the right way – Jack Nicholson made a career out of doing that very thing. Here, MacFarlane (who again directs while sharing screenplay credits with Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild) laces the comedy with a mean spirit. Jokes are made about people of every race, religion, and sexual orientation, but it’s not nearly as clever or witty as it needs to be. It’s not much fun watching a bully pester everyone in the near vicinity.
This time, Ted takes center stage from his best pal John (a game Mark Wahlberg). Ted is thrown in a predicament when the government deems him property instead of a person. That nullifies his recent marriage to girlfriend Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth) and throws a wrench into their plans for adoption. In an effort to fight back, they hire fresh-faced attorney Sam (Amanda Seyfried) who tries to spin the case as an obstruction of civil rights.
You know what that means. MacFarlane uses this set up as a way to equate Ted’s situation with slavery and gay marriage, with plenty of obscene jokes along the way. It’s interesting that a character like Ted – who throws around offensive jibes toward anyone under the sun – would find himself fighting to be an equal with the rest of society. This is a very slippery slope MacFarlane decides to take, and he never really goes anywhere with it. Slavery and gay marriage is used as a backdrop with nothing insightful to be said. If it wasn’t meant to be examined deeply, why even make it a running theme to begin with?
There are moments where MacFarlane hits on comedy, but they come few and far between. One involves a clever repartee over F. Scott Fitzgerald’s name, and another uses the score from Jurassic Park (1993) to much better effect than Jurassic World (2015) ever did. But those are two examples of good comedy buried under loads of bad ones. MacFarlane is at his worst when he goes for cheap and easy toilet humor. Jokes about semen, feces, and other bodily fluids are cringe worthy. It doesn’t work because MacFarlane doesn’t do anything other than point them out. Yes, human excrement is gross, but so what? The lowest point features Patrick Warburton and Michael Dorn walking around New York City Comic-Con, tripping nerds and knocking food out of people’s hands to their own delight. What’s so funny about two jerks strutting around acting like first-rate douche bags?
The plotting meanders wildly out of control. At a bloated two hours, the story takes forever to get going and never builds enough momentum to keep us engaged. First we see Ted and Tami-Lynn’s marriage, then we see Ted in court testifying for his citizenship, then we’re on a road trip from Boston to New York, then we’re in Comic-Con, THEN we see Ted and John running around while creepy villain Donny (Giovanni Ribisi) sneaks upon them. It goes on and on and on. Throughout this shamble are the constant dick and fart jokes. An important factor about comedy is when to end it. Sometimes milking a joke too long can take away its impact. That is exactly what happens here. Laughter turns into chuckles, and then into groans, and then into constant time checking to see when this thing will mercifully end.
Ted 2 is one of those movies where people will say something like “You’ll enjoy it if you don’t think” or “Go in with low expectations.” Movies are the only mainstream art form where you hear those kinds of statements. Do you ever go into a restaurant thinking, “I’ll enjoy this meal a lot more if I think it’s going to be crap?” Do people go to concerts saying, “I’ll have a better time if I expect the music to be terrible?” It’s a strange phenomenon, and a way of thinking that allows Hollywood to churn out mediocre films year after year. Don’t we deserve better than this? We only get what we ask for.