It would be nice if TED 2 avoided the comedy sequel trap of doing the same thing again only bigger and less funny. It doesn’t. This is first-draft “that’ll do” comedy with recycled FAMILY GUY riffs to fill in the gaps. If a joke doesn’t get a laugh the first time it won’t the next three times either, which is something Seth MacFarlane consistently seems to fail to understand.
After helping to give his Thunder Buddy for Life John (Mark Wahlberg) his Happily Ever After, Ted (Seth MacFarlane) wants to move on with his own life by marrying his beloved Tami-Lynne (Jessica Barth). Ted hits a snag when he looks into adoption as the Supreme Court declares him, being a teddy bear who was wished to life by a child, not a real person, in doing so invalidating his rights. With the help of John and young Lawyer Samantha (Amanda Seyfried) Ted must convince his nation that he is just as human as them.
The opening credits scene is a spectacular number, but in practice ends up being a lesser version of MUPPETS MOST WANTED’s intro. Maybe Macfarlane should do the next Muppets outing or failing that a full-blown musical rather than another movie of this ilk.
With Mila Kunis’ Laurie written out of proceedings, there’s nothing to ground the story, no heart except for Tami-Lynn. Amanda Seyfried’s stoner lawyer is not an adequate replacement, and she’s really thinly drawn. By ditching Laurie and introducing a character more like John as a potential romance (a kind-of creepy one at that considering their age gap) the writers have completely backtracked on his arc in the first film. John has de-evolved as a character and is right back where he started. Ted’s journey to personhood isn’t enough to carry a story on its own when everyone around him and often he himself is so two-dimensional.
Giovanni Ribisi being super creepy as Donny is still the best thing about this story, and this time he’s got an amusingly Machiavellian Hasbro executive (John Carroll Lynch) and a terrible wig on his side. Donny even gets to reprise his best moment from the first film. You can’t blame MacFarlane and co. for getting Sam Jones back or one of the judges in BOSTON LEGAL on board for a scene either, but it’s a one-note gag that probably isn’t worth it in the long run.
I won’t say I never laughed, but it’s nowhere near as funny as last time. Liam Neeson’s stoney-faced supermarket cameo got a giggle, so did the slapstick Comic Con brawl at the end of the movie, and I still like Ted and John’s distasteful names for new batches of strong weed, but that’s about it. I always find it difficult to review comedies given that comedy is such a personal thing. For me, cruel and crude insults and out-of-place and half-baked references don’t make for memorable comedy.
What will Seth MacFarlane do next? His adult animated comedy series continue to be enduringly popular and he is a sought-after (though divisive) public speaker and occasional crooner. What he really seems to want to be is a real film director, and thus-far he seems to have hit a pretty solid wall in this aim. He’s good at concepts, good at the overview, but in guiding the ship and producing an end product that actually works he seems to stumble. MacFarlane perhaps needs to check his ego at the door next time and focus his talents on one aspect of the creative process – whether writing, producing, voicing myriad characters – rather than spreading himself this thin. I wouldn’t watch another TED movie, but I would pay to see if MacFarlane could direct an old-fashioned razzmatazz musical without including any toilet humour. SSP