By Adrian Lopez. Images courtesy of Universal Pictures
Three years ago Seth MacFarlane took a crack at movie-makin', and it wasn't half bad. The prequel to this week's reviewed movie, Ted, showed MacFarlane was capable of writing material longer than 22 minutes. It also didn't hurt having Mark Wahlberg star in the film. In fact, for all intents and purposes, Ted proved MacFarlane could very well, in fact, be a bonafide director.
Then he made A Million Ways to Die in the West and all bets were off.
Ted 2 picks up about three years where the original left off. The titular character (voice by MacFarlane) is getting hitched to ditzy Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth), his trashy girlfriend in the prequel. It seems the two have fallen head over high heels for each other. Cut to several months later and their marriage is on its last rope. In an attempt to salvage the relationship, they decide they want to have a baby. I know, I know: incredibly smart. After multiple failed attempts at baby-makin', they turn to adoption as a last resort. They are denied as Ted isn't considered an actual person with rights, but a piece of property like "garbage or a piece of shit". So Ted is off, along with his thunder buddy John (Mark Wahlberg) to find a lawyer (Amanda Seyfried) in an attempt to help him earn his rights as a person.
Ted 2 is very funny across the comedic spectrum. There's clever, layered jokes that sharp wits will get. There's very relevant pop culture/current events humor that those are plugged in will gobble up. There's gross, potty humor all can't help but giggle at. Of course, there's that dark, pushing-the-envelope brand of humor MacFarlane has become well known for, filling the void old South Park episodes left behind. The kind of humor that makes you squirm and look around to see if it's ok to laugh. You will possibly be offended at one point or another, and that's kinda the point.
It's an interesting concept to have Wahlberg take a backseat to his CG co-star. This movie is all about Ted, unlike the first. I can't help but feel the script is sort of tongue-in-cheek to what's happening in the world today: Here we have a stuffed bear come-to-life, fighting for his rights against the legal system. Hell, even multi-billion dollar corporations get in the fray. We're quick to feel for Ted as we've connected to the increasing cases of the minority and LGBT communities fighting for their rights.
There are some incredible scenes that stick out in my mind, which will be brought up and quoted within my circles for quite awhile. Jon and Ted getting rid of Jon's porn-infested laptop. A terrible mishap inside a sperm donor specimen holding area. A well timed cue of the Jurassic Park theme song with accompanying "They move in herds" line. The New York Comic Con scene, in all it's nerd-bashing and easter egg glory. All these, along with a very strong cameo appearance from a Million Ways actor make for some very solid points in favor of Ted 2.
I'm not a fan of MacFarlane's crutch of relying on flashback humor. While I will say he made the instances of it in this movie much more natural and shorter than in the original Ted, they were still there. To me, it just shows a weakness in writing. The other thing I dislike about seeing anything MacFarlane does is his forcibly injected Broadway show tunes. I get it... he's a fan. But the entire opening credits was this super flashy and elaborate dance sequence which seemed to only be in the film to burn off three minutes of having to come up with gags. Not to mention a pretty awkward song break with Seyfried on guitar. I didn't come for a musical. I came to see Wahlberg and a talking bear get high and say funny crap in Boston accents.
The pacing is terrible. The film keeps jumping around from plot point to plot point until we're finally on the main story... probably 45 minutes in. We go from marriage → marital problems → baby idea → semen search → artificial insemination issues → adoption and failure → Ted's revoked citizenship → lawyer search and hiring → law research (with needless dancing) → the court case. But it's not even the court case that matters! It's a second one. I guess it could all be considered the main story, but it all feels so chopped up and self-contained, you never really know when the movie is "starting".
Missing from this film is, of course, the beautiful Mila Kunis who played John's love interest Lori. I really dislike the way they simply wrote her off during Ted's wedding, their relationship ultimately victim to divorce. It's so callous, it's almost a slap in the face for watching the first film. That entire story, save for Ted's miraculous origin story and our introduction to villain Donny (Giovanni Ribisi) who reprises his role in Ted 2, feels like we wasted our time.
There's also something to be said about MacFarlane once again taking pot shots at black culture for easy laughs and then having the nerve to have Ted compare himself to Roots' Kunta Kinte. It's abrasive and pretty unsettling.
Finally, the first cameo made in this film is incredibly weak and the product placement is so blatant, it's insulting.
Something just doesn't feel right about this sequel. Wahlberg acts almost as if he's obligated... as if he lost a bet to MacFarlane over a game of pool and had to reprise his role. He's really just along for the ride. It's a pretty unbelievable story. Sure, it's about a talking bear. You shouldn't get caught up on that and enjoy, right? Not when the villain outs himself to the authorities because he can't help but dance. It's moments like these where the writing just feels too made-for-tv and not multi-million dollar budget. Again, I didn't come for a song and dance, either. I came for stoner humor and a bromance. That seems dead between our co-stars Ted and John. I had a better time seeing Ted and Tami-Lynn argue.
Ted 2 is still is a funny movie, with some very memorable scenes. It's not a complete bust. We get to see enjoyable characters from an original script once again. Don't come in this with any expectations and you should be good. The trailer doesn't give away any of the good bits, and I'm always quick to give a gold star for that. But with a fairly strong movie roster in theaters at this very moment, the bear and Marky Mark are gonna have a helluva hard time.