Juvenile and offensive, Ted 2 fires off a lot of jokes, yet few of them find their mark.
Perhaps the rarest thing in Hollywood is the producer who says, “You know what? That was great, so let’s just leave it there”. As a result, we get sequels. Lots of sequels. Prequels, too, and spinoffs. One need only look at American food portions to recognise it’s not a nation possessed of the ability to know when enough is enough.
The application of restraint (at least in the entertainment world) seems a decidedly British trait, sparing us from horrors like Love Actually 2: The Re-Loving or Slumdog Billionaire, and allowing gems like Faulty Towers to end after a mere 12 episodes, before there was any risk of overstaying its welcome. It’s not that sequels are bad, but there’s a grace to knowing when something should become a sequel (or even a franchise) and when something that’s both critically acclaimed and financially successful should nonetheless stand alone and untouched, forever.
It’s not hard to see why 2012’s surprise hit Ted found itself a challenge to that notion of restraint. The film took in over half a billion dollars worldwide and, despite its often controversial content, proved one of the funner comedies of the year. It’s the kind of movie where you hear they’re making a sequel and you think, "yes, I laughed quite a lot in the first one, and I like laughing, so I’ll welcome more of that, thank you."
Even the plot of the sequel offered a genuine extension of the original, with the living, breathing, foul-mouthed and pot-smoking teddy bear ‘Ted’ (voiced by writer/director Seth MacFarlane) told that his marriage to Tami-Lyn (Jessica Barth) has been nullified on account of him being deemed ‘property'. TED 2 hence finds itself a civil rights story that literally (and repeatedly) compares a teddy bear’s struggle to adopt a human baby with the plight of African slaves being considered human in the eyes of the law.
Seth MacFarlane, ladies and gentlemen. Seth MacFarlane.
Is it funny? Absolutely. MacFarlane is a clever and talented comedian who knows how to extract laughs from a variety of different setups, be they gross-out, shock value or pop-culture referential. But is it consistently funny? Not even close, and the quantity over quality approach means a lot of the film is rendered uncomfortably dull (or worse, offensive) as a result.
The latter is particularly concerning, with racism, sexism and homophobia all rearing their heads over and over again in Ted 2, as though somehow MacFarlane has completely lost sight of the distinction between ‘confronting' and straight-up ‘wrong’. Drenching Mark Wahlberg’s character, John, in a shelf load of semen is a tough sell at the best of times, but suggesting his plight is made all the worse because it’s “black guy’s cum” demonstrates just how far off the mark Ted 2 consistently lands.
When it gets things right, of course, the film shines. The opening titles are a delightfully choreographed musical number straight out of the golden age of cinema, and Liam Neeson’s brief cameo as a gravely serious man concerned about the purchase of cereal marketed strictly for children is terrifically funny. Amanda Seyfried, too, puts in a nice turn as both Ted’s lawyer and John’s love interest, even enduring constant barbs about her Gollum-esque eyes. But overall the film leaves a bad taste in your mouth and regret in your heart that the bottled lightning of the original couldn’t have just been left alone and untouched, forever.
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