I’ve always stood by Ted as a really good film. It makes for a clever riff on the whole kid-and-his-magical-friend trope often seen in family films, Seth MacFarlane does promising work as a first time director and Ted was simply a great, very well-realized character. Unfortunately, we are living in a post-A Million Ways to Die in the West world, so the idea that Seth MacFarlane will be revisiting Ted after that horrorshow in a sequel is not something that gets me excited. But hey, I would love to be proven wrong and MacFarlane knocks it out of the park.
Following the events of the first film, we find Ted (Seth MacFarlane) and Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth) a year into their marriage and things are not going very well. Ted gets the idea that maybe if they were to have a baby, they would be able to learn to love each other again. Problems arise when it turns out that the government does not see Ted as a person, resulting in his adoption application dismissed and marriage deemed null and void. With the help of his best friend John Bennet (Mark Wahlberg) and lawyer, Samantha Leslie Jackson (Amanda Seyfried), the gang goes to court to fight for Ted’s civil rights.
First off, this is better than A Million Ways to Die in the West, a lot better. Not that it really says much because that’s like saying Ted 2 is better than getting your eyes gouged out by chopsticks. Joking aside, the film is an improvement in that I actually laughed, quite a number of times actually. But there are some big problems that make the film a mixed bag overall.
One is that the film lacks any sense of focus. Yes, even the first film is littered with Family Guy style tangents and non-sequiturs, but the film was at least about something. It was exploring the relationship between Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis’ characters and their relationship. Ted 2 isn’t really about anything really; arguably it’s a message movie that wants to promote civil rights. Yet, it feels almost secondary considering how thinly plotted the story is. It’s similar to the structure of message-oriented Family Guy episodes where the “message” seems to come out of nowhere in the last few minutes with very little building up to it, thematically speaking. Only this time it’s extended over a period of just under two hours, which leads to my other problem – the length. I would be fine with the crazy, unfocused and joke-after-joke style that Ted 2 is clearly going for, if it had stayed at around 90 minutes. The first film was only about 10 minutes shorter than this, yet this feels almost twice as long. There are entire subplots that I did not even mention in my synopsis, and a quick rewrite could have cut them out and saved the film a solid 20-25 minutes.
It doesn’t help that despite the number of times that I laughed, there are a number of moments where I didn’t and it wasn’t necessarily for the lack of trying. There are an absurd amount of jokes that are recycled from Family Guy, from the first Ted, and even jokes that are repeated from earlier in the film. The constant rehashing of material was tiring and made the film dull at multiple points. For every joke that worked, there two just around the corner that’ll stop the movie dead in its tracks. Thankfully the anti-comedy/funny-because-it-goes-on-forever type jokes are kept to a minimum, and if you aren’t someone who watches Family Guy, you might find more to enjoy in this (at least if you liked the first film).
What continues to work is the chemistry between Ted and John, who have a sense of history that adds to the believability of their relationship. One pitfall that most comedy sequels find themselves in is the caricaturizing of the characters compared to the previous installment, and Ted 2 actually avoids that common misstep, even if it does indulge in most other comedy sequel problems. Amanda Seyfried also makes a solid addition to the cast, and this time she’s actually given jokes to work with unlike AMWTDITW. Then there are the cameos, which are to be expected in any Seth MacFarlane project. I didn’t really have a problem with the cameos in this. In fact, one of the biggest laughs in the film is a cameo which happens early on (and comes back in a post-credits scene, by the way).
Ted 2 is pretty much what you expect hearing that name. It’s better than Seth MacFarlane’s previous film, but it is by no means a good movie. I continue to get baffled by MacFarlane’s constant lack of discipline in his writing, especially when it comes to finding a focus and honing everything in to revolve around whatever the central idea/theme is. I still think he’s an immensely talented guy who just needs someone to tell him “no, that’s a terrible idea” every now and then. I want him to continue doing movies because there’s so much potential, but this is definitely a step backwards. Though considering how AMWTDITW underperformed and even in Ted 2’s lackluster early box-office numbers, I have a feeling Seth MacFarlane is not being given any incentive to experiment. If you’re a huge fan of his work, you’re likely going to enjoy Ted 2 just fine. There are definitely worse things you could see in theaters right now, and that’s probably the biggest compliment that I can give Ted 2.