Review: Ted 2
Seth MacFarlane has more going on than his plethora of penis and poop jokes might suggest. While those are staples of the MacFarlane cinematic experience across now three films, it’s not hard to see that there is another part of him that also wants to entertain in a purer fashion, enlivening an audience with something that isn’t just a celebrity cameo or gross-out gag.
It’s none the more evident than in the opening of Ted 2, the bloated, juvenile sequel to the money-making 2012 original. A short introduction in the sequel wastes no time swearing, making fun of gay sex, and showing a man high on cocaine. For MacFarlane, who also co-writes and voices the animated titular bear, it’s enough to say foul things in a funny voice and go on inconsequential tangents to try and make someone, anyone laugh.
After that though is a title sequence that features a couple dozen men and woman glamorously dancing like out of something from an old Hollywood musical. The only thing keeping it rooted in this immature film is that Ted dons a tux and dances elegantly himself. There is no crude joke, and not even any singing; it’s a showstopper, and one of a select few odd, genuine entries into a movie littered with throwaway gags and phallic references.
Later on, a character played by Amanda Seyfried is given a chance to play guitar and sing around a campfire – the only joke here is that her voice is so beautiful she beckons woodland creatures to listen.
Those moments of intrigue aren’t nearly enough to save a sequel that isn’t particularly different than the first. MacFarlane as a director still has issues with pacing, and is far more interested in for instance giving Liam Neeson and Tom Brady screen time even if they are irrelevant and it pushes the plot back.
The tenuous story deals with the identity of Ted; he is deemed property and not a person, and so he has no rights, losing his job and marriage. Thus, he and his best friend John (Mark Wahlberg) enlist a neophyte pot-smoking lawyer named Sam (Seyfried) to fight the designation. That Ted (and MacFarlane) even thinks about equating this plight to that of anyone in real life is insincere and absurd.
That there is MacFarlane’s constant, uncertain tightrope-walking. He makes wistful references to Jurassic Park and The Breakfast Club, finds a chance to squeeze in song and dance whenever he can, and tries to point out the absurdity of the seriousness of some people. At the same time, those attempts can be constantly misinterpreted, and when surrounded by fart jokes propelled by two idiot bros drinking and getting high, they are simple lost and forgotten.
MacFarlane is being playful and mocking when he has Ted compare his ordeal to that of Kunta Kinte in Roots while hitting a bong. But then MacFarlane, who doesn’t often go for gratuitous sexist overtones and jokes, has John and Ted both recoil in disgust to smoking weed out of a penis-detailed bong. It’s okay for Seyfried’s character to do it, but both John and Ted refuse. So is MacFarlane refusing, or making fun of the inherent sexism?
Ted 2 doesn’t have a point, though it does feature rather lengthy, serious speeches by both Seyfried and Morgan Freeman, playing a respected civil rights lawyer, but it’s the same poor blending of conflicting desires. There is a splattering of smart laughs, but the rest are the laziest that can be concocted, desperate attempts to get the most people to laugh the longest and loudest.