The first Ted movie, about an infantile Boston native whose teddy bear friend is brought to life by a childhood wish, was a triumphant throwback to high-concept comedies of the 80s that was elevated to the level of cult phenomenon by a hair-raisingly funny script that let rip Seth MacFarlane’s twisted views of life, love and race relations.
Ted 2 clearly has the Family Guy-creator hoping such adolescent magic will strike again as he reunites with Mark Wahlberg for another round of sophomore, scatological humour. But while this sequel has its moments, the jokes more often misfire and the lack of a well-structured plot makes it a disappointingly scattershot follow-up.
In an interesting reverse of fortunes from the first movie, Ted 2 finds the thunder buddies in drastically different circumstances. John (Wahlberg) is single again after Mila Kunis’ Lori finally grew tired of his inability to grow-up; meanwhile, his best pal Ted (MacFarlane) has just got married to the love of his life, Tammi-Lynn (Barth).
When the newlyweds hit a first-year rocky patch they decide to paper-over the cracks by adopting a child, but their plans are quickly scuppered when the law declares Ted to be property and not a person. Angry and dejected, Ted seeks the legal help of pot-smoking young lawyer Samantha (an underused Seyfried) as he heads to court to regain his human rights.
The unheralded strength of Ted was the effective simplicity of its plot, which focused on the travails of a stunted man-child who learns to move-on from his past and accept his responsibilities as an adult. Though predictable, this story afforded MacFarlane with plenty of opportunities to create outrageous shenanigans as John set out to learn the necessary lessons.
The narrative here, however, is frustratingly uneven. It starts out as Ted and Tammi-Lynn’s quest to adopt a child, then suddenly becomes a court room comedy as Ted battles to be declared human, before finally morphing into a road-trip movie as Ted, John and Samantha head to New York to meet with Morgan Freeman’s legendary civil rights attorney.
In amongst all this is an undercooked subplot that sees the return of Giovanni Ribisi’s creepy toy-stalker, who is this time hired by Hasbro to kidnap Ted in a bid to inject some mild peril into the third act, resulting in a damp finale that plays-out as an almost-exact retread of the first movie’s denouement.
MacFarlane’s error is to switch focus away from Wahlberg’s loveable lunk, John. Ted may be the franchise’s title character, but it’s his fleshy, fallible buddy who is the heart and soul of both movies and it’s a wrench to see him relegated to the role of sidekick while his furry friend is left to do the emotional heavy lifting.
Even though he’s given very little to do – John’s main arc follows his unwillingness to seduce Seyfried’s Gollum-eyed lawyer – Wahlberg is still an endearing presence, bringing an adorable helplessness to his character’s inability to get his life together that makes him easier to root for. By contrast, Ted, as the film’s foul-mouthed comic relief, simply doesn’t have the same pull on our heartstrings, which makes it even harder to invest in the wayward narrative.
Eventually, the movie abandons all pretence of storytelling and becomes a series of half-baked gags. Some of the jokes pay-off – such as John and Ted’s ‘sticky’ mishap in a sperm bank – but most are cringe-worthy misfires that retread the well-worn territory of potheads, practical jokes and politically incorrect cliches from the first movie.
MacFarlane also tries to employ Family Guy-style cutaway gags that take the form of surreal references to scores of movies, such as Jurassic Park and The Lion King. This device works well on the animated sitcom because the characters are often in on the bizarreness of the joke, but here such scenes just sit awkwardly without a punchline as if simply knowing the movie reference is enough.
A lot less fun than the original and unsatisfyingly uneven in both storytelling and comedic tone, Ted 2 is a frankly underwhelming sequel. Though there are enough laugh-out-loud moments to make it an entertaining-enough distraction during an as-yet disappointing summer season, with the exception of an excellent Wahlberg, all involved are capable of producing much better than this.
Runtime: 115 mins; Genre: Comedy; Released: 8 July 2015;
Director: Seth MacFarlane; Writers: Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, Wellesley Wild;
Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Seth MacFarlane, Amanda Seyfried, Jessica Barth
Click here to watch the trailer for Ted 2