Starring: Seth MacFarlane (Ted), Mark Wahlberg (Transformers: Age of Extinction), Amanda Seyfried (Les Miserables), Jessica Barth (Ted), Giovanni Ribisi (Avatar), Morgan Freeman (The Dark Knight)
Director: Seth MacFarlane (Ted)
Writers: Seth MacFarlane & Alec Sulkin & Wellesley Wild (Ted)
Runtime: 1 hour 55 minutes
Release Date: 27 June (US), 8 July (UK)
Well, this is somewhat of a milestone: Ted was my second ever review on this blog and now, almost three years later (geez, I’ve been doing this too long), I’m reviewing the sequel. In case you don’t remember my opinion of the first, I liked it quite a bit. It was a funny original concept that got a lot of laughs as well as a good heart. Then A Million Ways to Die in the West happened. I personally just thought that movie was okay, but the rest of the world pretty much dismissed it as dogsh*t and people began to question Seth MacFarlane’s cinematic capabilities. So what does he do? Go back to the well, of course, to create a comedy sequel. Those always work, right? To answer my own rhetorical question: no, that’s actually a fairly rare occurrence. What were you thinking, me? No, you shut up. Anyway, the review.
If I wanted to be quick and lazy about this review, I could easily just sum up Ted 2 as “more of the same” and move on. But I like to be a teensy bit more professional that that, so let’s dig deeper. The film is very similar to the first on a structural level, right down to the climax being essentially the same with a Comic Con coat of paint; it’s not Hangover Part II degrees of note-for-note and they at least seem aware of it, but it’s still a little disconcerting. Whilst the first film was more of a rom-com with a slight fantastical twist and MacFarlane’s unique brand of humour, this sequel has slightly higher ambitions: it wants to make a statement about civil rights. It’s a lofty idea with a lot of potential for social satire and, whilst its heart is certainly in the right place, it ultimately doesn’t say or do anything you wouldn’t expect. It doesn’t dig nearly as deep as you could into the absurd concept of an animate inanimate object fighting to prove it has a conscience, and all you’re left with are the expected messages about humanity and compassion and whatnot. I’m not exactly expecting high art, but something with a little more introspect and focus would have been appreciated. Focus is the key word there, as that is something Ted 2 lacks a lot of. For a film coming close to two hours in length, there is a lot of padding and almost none of it is even plot-related. The film has far more Family Guy-style non-sequiturs than its predecessor and, whilst some of the film’s best gags are found in these moments, they do nothing to move story or character forward. The first film did a far better job of working its humour into the narrative, whilst here they pretty much have to stop the movie every time they want to tell a joke. A lot of it is hilarious, sure, but once you stop laughing you realise how inorganic it is on a writing level. It’s overall a fun ride, I laughed consistently throughout, I was never bored, but I feel like they could have done so much more and were happy to simply coast.
Seth MacFarlane and Mark Walhberg’s chemistry is what really made Ted feel real, and that’s just as true here. Neither is being pushed particularly hard on a dramatic level and Wahlberg still looks a little confused at times by the words coming out of his mouth, but what comes out is still worth a bag of laughs. However, Wahlberg’s role feels a little short-changed mainly due to that horrible sequel trend: a major character gets ditched between films and their absence is then poorly and unconvincingly explained. In this case, it’s Mila Kunis’ Lori, who essentially gets thrown under the bus and treated like she was a terrible person, which will feel totally unjustified to anyone who’s seen the first film. Amanda Seyfried does her best to fill the gap and avoids feeling like a cheap replacement, but Kunis’ absence is still missed and I wish the writers could have come up with a better way around the issue. Jessica Barth returns as Ted’s now-wife Tammi-Lynn, but despite her character having far more agency in the plot she’s absent for the second half of the film, whilst Giovanni Ribisi is just repeating the same shtick as last time but with a Jheri curl wig. Like the first, the film is also chock full of cameos both old and new; I won’t say anymore than that, but one particularly skilled actor pulls out a box of tricks for the film’s best non-sequitur moment.
On a technical level, Ted 2 looks about the same as the original. The CGI effect to create Ted still looks seamless and the animation is fantastically vivid but, like most comedies these days, the film lacks visual flavour. There are some eye-catching moments like a gratuitous opening dance number and an Anchorman-esque brawl in the climax, but it’s otherwise the same static cinematography, bright colour palette and repeated scene transitions over and over again. Even the music is practically indistinguishable from the first.
In many ways, Ted 2 feels less like a sequel to a movie and more like another episode of a TV show: it tells its own story and has plenty of new material, but it also feels like it’s following a pre-established formula, tired catchphrases and all. That’s not to say it’s a particularly bad episode. It’s just not one you’re going to remember as an all-time classic. It has a lot of good pieces to it, but as a whole it’s far less than the sum of its parts. On the comedy sequel scale, it’s far better than most of its brethren but that’s hardly an excuse to celebrate. Seth MacFarlane still knows how to tell a good joke, but I just wish he challenged himself a little more rather than simply rest on his laurels. This is a better movie than A Million Ways to Die in the West, sure, but at least that movie tried something a little different; it failed, but it did so uniquely. Ted 2 passes the test, but only by the skin of its teeth.
FINAL VERDICT: 6.5/10