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Review: Ted 2

June 26, 2015

By John Corrado

★★ (out of 4)

Ted 2 PosterProbably the best scene in Ted 2 comes right near the beginning of this raunchy comedy sequel.  The plushy title star (Seth MacFarlane) has just gotten married to his girlfriend Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth), giving way to a perfectly choreographed musical number that is equal parts Busby Berkeley and Easter Parade.  This sequence is both amusing and visually captivating, but when the best part of a film is the opening credits, that’s not really the best sign.

Now is probably a good time to mention that I have a pretty mixed relationship with Seth MacFarlane’s work.  I’ve never really gotten into Family Guy, and last year’s failed cinematic spoof A Million Ways to Die in the West was an abysmally unfunny and wildly overlong waste of time and money, that felt like pure self indulgence on the part of the writer, director and star.

But I did quite like the first Ted, a foul mouthed talking teddy bear comedy that had some big laughs and also a surprising amount of heart, somewhat understandably becoming a box office hit for these reasons.  This is why I tried to remain cautiously optimistic about this seemingly contractually obligated sequel, but no amount of a few genuinely funny moments and goodwill towards the original, can save this from feeling like an uneven retread of a superior comedic concept.

The story here picks up several years after the events of the first film.  John Bennet (Mark Wahlberg) is now divorced, and Ted is looking to reignite passion in his own marriage by having a baby.  But when attempts at artificial insemination fail, like trying to jerk off Tom Brady and another grossly sticky situation, the teddy bear and his human wife settle for trying to adopt a child.  The only problem is that their request brings unwanted legal attention, leading to Ted’s sense of personhood getting questioned, and him being deemed property.  With a novice lawyer (Amanda Seyfried) on their side, a court case is opened where Ted is forced to defend his basic human rights, and legally father a child.

It’s not that this premise doesn’t have potential, and there are some glimpses of clever satire in what Seth MacFarlane is saying about the importance of accepting differences, making a few questionable but seemingly well intentioned comparisons to other real civil rights cases.  But Ted 2 is just too unfocused a platform to really commit to any of these ideas.  The faux dramatic speechifying suggests some level of forward thinking on his part, but at a certain point, his purposefully offensive humour crosses a line and starts to drown out anything remotely progressive that the film might be trying to say.  Any messages will likely be lost on the target demographic of perpetual adolescents who are just waiting for the next bong or dick joke, two things that are even combined for an extended gag that reeks of homophobia.

To make matters worse, at nearly two hours, portions of the film run long and start to get a little boring, with several of the comedic set pieces feeling random and out of place.  This includes a thoroughly idiotic bit involving throwing apples at joggers, and a painfully unfunny scene at an improv club, that opens far too many fresh wounds.  The whole finale at New York Comic Con, a setting theoretically ripe for parody, feels nasty and mean spirited in ways that are far more uncomfortable than funny, unless you find something hilarious about the sight of two overtly stereotyped gay men bullying costumed nerds.

There are still a couple of good gags here, flashes of what made the first film mostly work.  Nicely staged references to The Breakfast Club and Planes, Trains and Automobiles provide solid if obvious laughs, and a musical cue taken right from Jurassic Park is also pretty great.  A pitch perfect cameo from Liam Neeson is easily the single funniest scene, an inspired comedy sketch that pays off with an amusing stinger after the end credits.  Mark Wahlberg once again commits himself fully to the premise, and there are also some fun exchanges between the cast.  It’s these sporadic delights that kept me from outright disliking the film, but I was never unaware of the fact that I was watching mediocrity.

Like an unfortunate number of comedy sequels, Ted 2 is very hit and miss.  There are moments in the film that are funny, and other parts that really aren’t.  Where the original felt fresh, this one often feels like a retread.  The narrative is ambling and the humour is mostly scattershot, a film that is to be enjoyed more for specific parts rather than the whole.  But these amusing moments, which maybe make up about half the film in total, can safely wait until you can watch Ted 2 in the comfort of your own home.

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