For Seth MacFarlane, strictly as a director, Ted 2 is his laziest effort to date. The production design is cheap and uninspired, the lighting basic, the editing and scene order occasionally awkward, and the three musical numbers fun for about five seconds before they outstay their welcome and stick out like a sore boner. Where the first Ted was genuinely inspired in its metaphor for clinging to childhood things, and A Million Ways to Die in the West both heartfelt and secure in its gimmick, Ted 2 – cinematically – is just an excuse to set up jokes, not all of them on topic (shocker!).
Here’s the thing – a majority of those jokes are really funny. And when you pay to see a comedy, that’s what you want. That Mister Smart Critic Guy over here doesn’t think it’s particularly artful…well, I doubt that matters to anybody, and perhaps it shouldn’t. Just know that MacFarlane can do better.
I remain grateful to MacFarlane for keeping Sam “Flash Gordon” Jones employed, and the Savior of Every One of Us gets some good screen time here too, first as the minister at Ted’s wedding, and later as both friend and foe at key moments. For those not keeping score, Ted (MacFarlane) is a teddy bear who came to life years ago, and has grown up to be a working-class Bostonian pothead who still just happens to resemble a children’s toy. Upon marrying his fellow grocery-store cashier Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth), a trashy gum-snapper who throws plates at his head, Ted realizes that marriage isn’t all it’s cracked up to be…but thinks perhaps things might work out if they had a baby. The problem, of course, is that plush toys generally aren’t made with working penises. Not the kind you’d give a kid, at least.
Sperm donation is the first solution, but for reasons it would be unfair to reveal, that doesn’t work out. Then comes adoption, which triggers an investigation into the very nature of Ted’s existence by the state – does he deserve personhood, or is he property? This, of course, gives Ted, and director MacFarlane, ample opportunity to compare the toy bear’s situation to that of “homos” and “black guys” – while I confess to laughing at some of the off-color moments, I do find myself wondering what the point is. Is MacFarlane trying for an early Howard Stern shtick, where he presumes he’s saying what “we’re all” thinking about race? Or is he making fun of the way he imagines working-class Boston guys cluelessly talk about people who aren’t like them, and if so, is that unfairly condescending? Yeah, yeah, Critic Guy, shut up and laugh. This has been the director’s shtick for a while now, though I fear he may find himself in a changing climate before too long. One of the running gags involves gay panic over the notion of smoking weed from a penis-shaped bong, something no stoner I know would balk at for more than a second – the danger here is not that average people will one day be mortally offended, but that they’ll wonder why it was ever a thing.
Privately, MacFarlane must be one of the nicest guys in showbiz, as he’s able to command a vast array of celebrity cameos, both as themselves (Jay Leno is an especially good sport) and in minor roles. Dennis Haysbert, for one, is a scene-stealer as a particularly mean-spirited gynecologist, and Michael Dorn and Patrick Warburton play an uber-macho gay couple who like to beat up comic-book nerds while cosplaying as Worf and the Tick. This brings us to the fact that a major chunk of the movie’s third act takes place at New York Comic Con, which is referred to, throughout, simply as “Comic-Con.” I’m guessing that perhaps the show organizers asked for that, but really, Seth MacFarlane, you self-proclaimed nerd: “Comic-Con” is San Diego. Period. Also, the notion that you can buy same-day tickets for NYCC is more absurd than a pot-smoking teddy bear – I understand this year’s event is already sold out.
With Mila Kunis having presumably been busy making Jupiter Ascending, her love-interest character has been abruptly written out, replaced by good sport Amanda Seyfried, frequently the butt of “Gollum” jokes as aspiring attorney Samantha L. Jackson (it’s funny because it gives Ted a chance to say “black guy” again, amirite?). Much of the movie involves her, Ted, and Ted’s best friend John (Mark Wahlberg) on a road trip to meet a superstar civil rights lawyer (Morgan Freeman); along the way, they bond over marijuana, marijuana, marijuana and mocking an obnoxious blind man. Unfortunately for us, Giovanni Ribisi is back as the creepy, unnecessary villain from the first film; this time, he’s in cahoots with Hasbro to steal Ted, cut him open, and figure out how he works. Hasbro are good sports to play along, and I presume will be bringing a talking Ted toy to market as part of their deal for that.
When Ted 2 nails a particular scene, it does so to perfection – a bit in which the gang visit an improv show to yell out horrible audience suggestions is killer, as is the extended Tom Brady scene already partly spoiled by the Superbowl commercial. MacFarlane loves his digressions, but when the digressions are in character, they work – Ted throws apples at joggers, because that’s something he’d do, for example; versus Peter Griffin on Family Guy randomly remembering something to do with a B-list celebrity just for a sight gag.
It’s a stretch to call the courtroom scenes any kind of serious civil rights allegory – knowing MacFarlane, he was probably inspired more by the episode of Star Trek where Data’s humanity is put on trial. Nothing in the movie has any weight, and it shouldn’t – if it did, we’d have to start wondering why the writer-director is so obsessed with black cock. Best just to laugh when you can, and take a hit from your own water-pipe-device the rest of the time.