Ted 2 Review
MACFARLANE’S SEQUEL IS FUNNY,
BUT IS OVERSTUFFED AND UNECESSARY
Duplicating a hit is hard. In terms of a cinematic feature films, creating a movie sequel to a hit is harder. Back in 2012, Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane presented moviegoers with the raunchy comedy movie Ted, a film that followed the R-rated misadventures of a magical talking teddy bear (Ted) and his best friend John. Whether a viewer liked it or not, this adult oriented comedy scored big at the box office, laughing up nearly $550 million globally and becoming the #1 comedy movie that year. Three years later, Seth McFarlane and Universal return to the “Thunder Buddies” lives of John and Ted with the sequel Ted 2. Does this film succeed at duplicating its predecessor’s comedic magic or is it just simply a failed sequel?
After getting married to Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth), Ted (Seth MacFarlane) is in marital woes, with the pair’s argumentative behavior affecting their union. Landing upon the idea of having a baby to repair their relationship, Ted calls upon his best friend John (Mark Wahlberg) to help the couple conceive a child. Unfortunately, more troubles befall Ted’s parental dreams as his civil rights are called into question the government. Faced with a possible future of been branded as property and not human, Ted turns to the untested, but youthful junior lawyer Samantha Jackson (Amanda Seyfried) for help, joining John on a mission to legalize Ted with human rights. Unbeknownst to Ted and his friends, Donny (Giovanni Ribsi) is hatching a plan to reclaim Ted, hoping to dissect the talking bear to use his secrets in toys around the world.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
I remember seeing Ted in theaters back in 2012. I personally loved the movie, laughing my you-know-what-off many times with its plethora of raunchy comedic jokes and gags. To this day, I still casual watch Ted, still finding the movie’s humor hilariously funny and the story’s narrative compelling (for a comedy movie). When they announced that Ted 2 was being made, I was excited, hoping against hope that this upcoming sequel would carry the same bravado as the first installment. However, after viewing the movie, I found that Ted 2, while funny and somewhat entertaining, was subpar to its previous entry and ultimately feels episodic in nature and unnecessary.
Brushing off the mixed reviews and mediocre box office results of A Million Ways to Die in the West, Seth MacFarlane returns to direct and write (alongside co-writers Wellesley Wild and Alec Sulkin) Ted 2. MacFarlane seem to be more confident in filmmaking this go around, but faces challenges along the way. This comedy in the film comes fast and thick, laying out MacFarlane’s style of dirty jokes, obscene gags, and profane humor with plenty of laughs along the way (though some jokes don’t land quite as well as they did in the original Ted). The story arc in Ted 2 has more of a serious tone with Ted and company heading into the courtroom, seeking legal action against the question of Ted’s civil rights. It’s an interesting notion, one that examines discrimination and defining and recognizing human right in the eyes of the state / government. Though it shows MacFarlane’s maturity to cultivate a tale with some thought provoking insight, the movie sacrifices a lot of what made the talking teddy bear funny in the first film. This tonal shift also result in scenes that quick move from comedic humor to somewhat dramatic seriousness, feeling choppy in sequences. In short, while its comedy aspect from the first film is still there, Ted 2’s story doesn’t hold its own and feels episodic rather than a full length feature film.
Ted 2 also seems to have the Monsters Inc. / Monsters University syndrome. These two Pixar movies, while exceptionally good, share a negative quality with each other; unable to balance the characters properly. Monsters Inc. favors one character than the other, while Monsters University (its prequel-sequel) reverses the spotlight on the duo characters. Ted 2 similarly follows that suit. While the first installment is about Ted himself, a lot of emphasis is heavily placed on Mark Wahlberg’s character as he juggles his relationship with Ted and his relationship Mila Kunis’s Lori, this sequel switches the central spotlight more on Ted, leaving Wahlberg’s John in the background in this movie with not much to do this time around. Its obvious what MacFarlane wants to accomplish in the movie’s narrative, but shortchanging one of the two main characters is felt while watching the feature and feels disappointing that they don’t flesh the character of John out more in this sequel. Additionally, it’s also disappointing that Mila Kunis’s character Lori is absent from Ted 2.
Although he doesn’t have much to do, Mark Wahlberg still delivers great chemistry with Ted or rather Seth MacFarlane. Their witty banter is still top notch as well as their comedic gags and overall camaraderie “thunder buddies” friendship. What’s also remarkable are visual effects that render the talking Ted on-screen. While it won’t rival CG used in a stereotypical Marvel movie, viewers, like last go round, believe that Ted is really being with realistic integration with his human co-stars. Replacing Kunis’s Lori, Amanda Seyfried joins the cast as Samantha Jackson, the legal attorney that represents Ted in court. Like Wahlberg, Seyfried in the movie is more of a plot device construct, offering little insight towards her character and merely serves as the new love interest for John. She’s definitely beautiful and charming on-screen, but her whole “hip, cool girl” attitude of smoking weed, playing guitar, and joking around with the guys feels like a fantasy irritation of a male’s idea in a woman rather than well-rounded characterization. Jessica Barth’s Tami-Lynn is a little bit more dynamic in Ted 2, but only justly so with her limited screen time at the film’s beginning and end. The only recurring character that doesn’t work in the movie is Giovanni Ribsi’s Donny, which seems to recycle the first film’s third act in Ted 2’s finale (as if the filmmakers ran out of ideas).
MacFarlane’s previous works (both in TV and film) are well-established with plethora of pop-culture references and celebrity cameos with Ted 2 continuing that tradition. Seasoned actor Morgan Freeman joins the cast for a small role as a big time attorney Patrick Meighan, while Flash Gordon’s Sam Jones returns to make a small presence in the sequel as himself as well as Patrick Warburton’s Guy, who gets a little bit more screen time (and a few more laughs) with his new lover co-star Michael Dorn’s Rick. There are others cameos spotted in the movie, including likes of quarterback Tom Brady (Ted 2’s superbowl TV spot for the movie sort of spoiled the surprise of this scene, but it’s still funny one), so I won’t spoil it the other ones. Ted 2’s climax explodes on the exhibition floor at the New York Comic-con, thus you can probably imagine the multitude of geek / pop culture nods, shootouts, and gags that happen during this sequence. Lastly, there’s a special nod to another Universal mega hit movie that’s hilarious when presented.
As I said in the beginning of this review, duplicating a hit is hard and creating a movie sequel to a hit is harder. Ted 2 tries to recapture the magic from the first movie, but never reaches its intended target. Sure, the jokes are funny, cameos appearances are welcomed, certain view points are surprisingly poignant, and the dynamic chemistry between MacFarlane and Wahlberg is just as great as it was before. Unfortunately, several recycled ideas, a bland story arc for Walhberg’s John, and a story that’s not as compelling or strong, leaves Ted 2 in an awkward position in cinematic world of movies. To me, it was funny, though overall just okay and kind of an unnecessary sequel. That been said, moviegoers will most likely be spilt on this film. If you like racy comedy features or a fan of MacFarlane’s previous works, then Ted 2 is a good way to spend the afternoon and catch up with your favorite pot-smoking, foul-mouthed teddy bear. For everyone else, simply renting the movie will suffice.