Like Bargain Beer and Tom Brady’s Legacy, Ted 2 Does Not Get Better with Age
To be fair, it delivered exactly what it promised.
Have you ever said to yourself, “Oh, yeah, I wondered why the one thing The Velveteen Rabbit was missing was dicks?”
Have you ever thought about what it would be like if your life was just one continuous callback to jokes you made once that were kind of funny, but not funny enough for you to keep calling back to them?
Have you ever asked yourself, “Why, though?”
If yes, chances are you currently watching Ted 2.
In a classic case of men being able to do whatever they want, Family Guy creator MacFarlane has turned 2012’s wildly popular Ted—a film about a Teddy Ruxpin bear that came to life to sleep with prostitutes and end relationships—into a franchise, this one picking up six months after the original left off. Mark Wahlberg’s John Bennett is miserable after divorcing Mila Kunis. Ted, voiced by MacFarlane, is married to fellow grocery store cashier Tami-Lynn, played by Jessica Bartha. As Tami-Lynn and Ted try to adopt a child to save their ailing marriage, Ted’s entire existence is called into question by the federal government: is Ted a person, or a piece of property?
Insofar as the legal battle goes, the film refreshingly doesn’t veer far off the mark. Ted’s case is a thinly veiled nod to many civil rights cases being fought today, primarily the right to LGBTQ equality. Even when cheapened by the same running joke of a preponderance of black dicks on Google search, the storyline has legs—a twist no one saw coming when setting their expectations for the film. Unfortunately, a competing arc that has Giovanni Ribisi reprising his villain role from Ted cuts out what legs the fight for personhood storyline has from under it, while simultaneously hammering yet another nail into the coffin of what was once a promising film career for Ribisi.
While the merits of the film are cannibalized by its shortcomings (namely: storytelling, intelligence, wit), both are secondary to the movie’s true purpose: for MacFarlane to tell every joke he has ever wanted to, regardless of whether it fit into the storyline. So besotted is he by his own sense of humor, that the majority of the film’s scenes are complete non-sequiturs. That’s not to say that some aren’t chuckleworthy, it’s just that there’s no reason for them to exist. To be fair, the same could be said about Seth MacFarlane’s career in general, but this isn’t the time nor the place to get philosophical. Instead, let us focus on the things Ted 2 did get right.
The competing storylines give the film a sense of helter-skelter pacing that make you wonder if MacFarlane instructed co-writers Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild to each start writing from one side of a roll of paper and meet in the middle. Given the tepid celebrity cameos and the heavy reliance on the long forgotten jokes of the original Ted, the film did then succeed on what I assume was its primary goal: to be just as entertaining as Human Centipede.
Women, for once, are not an afterthought in a MacFarlane joint. No, in fact, the “I Saw Your Boobs” chanteur has clearly thought about them at length: for example, how best to take the commendable anomaly of a strong female lead in a bro comedy—this time, a brainy young lawyer played by an amiable Amanda Seyfried—and turn her into nothing more than underutilized arm candy (answer: put a dick-shaped bong in her mouth). Seyfried’s worth is measured not in her exceedingly capable trial law skills, but rather in her cool girl points: an oversold love of marijuana and joining in with Ted’s drunken antics of pelting joggers with fruit.
Even Tami-Lynn contains multitudes. Not only is she willing to put up with emotional abuse (and dole out some of her own), she likely trained alongside Wahlberg and MacFarlane at the Shutter Island School of Accents to prepare her unconvincingly thick Boston accent. Everyone in this movie sounds like they’re perennially having a mold of their teeth being made at the dentist, except Seyfried, who was too busy continually hitting a bong to speak.
There are a few saving graces to the otherwise phoned-in sequel: Wahlberg and Seyfried are both immensely likable, a welcome relief from MacFarlane’s abusive Ted. A Tom Brady cameo was still hilarious, even though, as one clearly non-Boston fan next to me pointed out, “This isn’t a fucking Entourage movie.” In fact, where the movie seems to succeed, it does so in spite of MacFarlane. His running commentary of offensive drivel seem flatter this time around, as does the shtick of a naughty teddy bear living the bro’ed out dream. But there are a few genuinely funny moments, often wry one-liners delivered by side characters, as well as an all together lovely musical number by Amanda Seyfried, that help keep the film afloat.
Ted 2 had everything it needed to be a real MacFarlane hit: likable leads, a talking stuffed animal, and rampant casual racism and sexism buried amidst some actual comedic moments worth a laugh. But of course, it delivered the MacFarlane version of all of those things—the lowest common denominator acceptable. Then again, if the lowest common denominator is what we’ve come to accept of MacFarlane, Ted 2 delivers exactly as promised, which is to say, not at all.