Ted 2, 2015
Directed by Seth MacFarlane
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Seth MacFarlane, Amanda Seyfried, Giovanni Ribisi, Jessica Barth, John Slattery, Sam J. Jones, Patrick Warburton and Morgan Freeman.
Newlywed couple Ted and Tami-Lynn want to have a baby, but in order to qualify to be a parent, Ted will have to prove he’s a person in a court of law.
After last summer’s horribly unfunny A Million Ways To Die In The West, many had begun to question writer/director Seth MacFarlane’s true abilities to turn animated success into film gold. There certainly seemed many positives for the Family Guy creator, not least the success of his film debut Ted in 2012, which grossed almost $550million worldwide. But his sophomore feature was a dud, and further doubts set in when the inevitable sequel for the fuzzy bear was announced.
MacFarlane had himself spoke many times about his (and audiences) trepidations in doing a sequel, particularly for a comedy, so in a move more akin to Bond or Batman, the writers disregarded some aspects of the original (noticably Mila Kunis’s Lori) and sensibly shifted the focus more to Ted as a “person” rather than even more rambunctious frat-boy shenanigans with his Thunder Buddy John (Wahlberg), and what his existence means for those around him. Rest assured, this isn’t a biting satire or message-piece about racism or class in America, as many of the first film’s traits (drugs, sex, swears, Flash Gordon) remain embedded in proceedings. But is Ted’s brand of humour still comedy gold, stuffing and all? Just about.
Comedy sequels are arguably the hardest to judge, with pressing the repeat button the easiest way to go, choosing more of the same over growth. If audiences loved the first, wouldn’t they love to see it all again just cranked up further? It’s the mistake that so often derails comedy “seconds”: for everything Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me there’s The Hangover: Part II, or more recently the heartbreakingly bad Dumb & Dumber To, but if you mix in some new elements you may just get away with it, and that’s almost exactly the case here as ut just about gets over sequel-itis to deliver a worthy return to the well.
As with any MacFarlane effort, where he once again teams with co-writers Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild, pop-culture references is the first port of call for joke-central, and the sequel is again over-loaded with them: the Planes, Trains and Automobiles and The Breakfast Club sequences are a hoot, but the Comic Con finale feels flat, more creative auto-pilot than uncharted waters. In addition, the jokes that land at the feet of poor Amanda Seyfried while chucklesome just feel like easy pickings, as does one of the film’s big cameos and a surprisingly dull Saturday Night Live sequence, arguably the film’s low points. Dour notes aside, rest assured there are plenty of laughs to be had through the film as it continues it foray through all things R-rated, with everything from a sperm bank to night at the improv given the MacFarlane stamp to mostly hilarious results, certainly more that A Million Ways.
What truly derails the film is its court-room/civil rights slant which revolves around Ted trying to become a “real boy” so he and his new wife Tami-Lyn (the excellent Jessica Barth) can become parents in a bid to save their marriage. The subject and reasons behind it aren’t problematic and there are a few smirks, but it all feels tedious and dull, as if they have been lifted from a different film altogether (a Lifetime film, perhaps), slowing the film to a crawl despite the sight of Morgan Freeman’s and his rousing talents. And in a film full of dick jokes and drug humour, it takes quite the stretch to make any of the more serious moments with any real pathos or poignancy.
Wahlberg, though, is again is a great sport (one sequence will be met with tears, happy or sad) and once again enjoys fantastic continued chemistry with MacFarlane, which is still mightily impressive considering he acts with nothing most of the time, and reafirms his abilities for both comedy and self-parody. Ted again is a smorgasboard of filth and smut, and with the bear technologically left-off-the-leash, the character feels more fluid than before allowing MacFarlane even more license to push the envelope for better or worse. Seyfried, meanwhile, adds a breath of fresh air to proceedings as Ted’s lawyer Sam. L Jackson (pop-culture!), illuminating throughout despite the flaccid nature of her budding romance with Wahlberg.
On balance, Ted 2 is certainly worth seeing but teeters ever so close to tumbling down the comedy-sequel rabbit hole, never to be seen or heard of again. There are many a-laugh to be had reuniting with the Thunder Buddies, but it never soars as high as its predecessor, and if Terminator Genisys has proved anything it’s that some films don’t need or warrant sequels, no matter how much apparent appetite or indeed box-office gold there may be waiting.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★