The original Ted film released in 2012 came as somewhat a surprise, undoubtedly anybody that has seen an episode of Family Guy could see that creator Seth MacFarlane was heavily influenced by films and most likely had his sights set on Hollywood all along but with Ted, MacFarlane demonstrated that he could sustain his brand of humour for an entire feature length film.
Ted was a great debut, sure it was filled with many of the clichés that MacFarlane mocks in episodes of Family Guy but it was an amusing comedy with endearing characters and a generous amount of quotable dialogue and memorable scenes.
The writing and comedy styling in Family Guy has always pushed the envelope, often targeting touchy or controversial subjects but the key to its success was that the jokes were always funny for everybody, even those that were being targeted. The humour in these skits often came from the sheer absurdity of wringing humour out of such sensitive issues, rather than any malicious point and laugh jokes made at a group’s expense.
Over the years, particularly recently, Family Guy has become increasingly spiteful not only towards its audience but also with jokes becoming more mean-spirited and as a result, less humorous.
MacFarlane’s second film, A Million Ways to Die in the West continued in this vain with a number of flat jokes resulting in an unfunny, overly-long and disappointing follow up to the excellent Ted. Seth MacFarlane’s humour has not lost its relevance; it is more a case that he has lost his sense of humour completely, the success of Ted resulting in an unedited mess of a film that rehashed the same jokes over and over again to fill the now requisite two-hour plus running time of a modern Hollywood film.
Unfortunately Ted 2 picks up right where A Million Ways… left off. Jokes routinely miss their mark. During my screening the cinema was often left to languish in silence during the pauses in dialogue that exist to allow laughter to erupt. I am bewildered that such an unfunny film made it through editing in such a state of disarray.
Seth MacFarlane has lost his edge and seems increasingly desperate to regain it by writing mean-spirited jokes, notable more for their obvious attempts at shock value and less for their ability to split sides.
Throughout its overly long running time, Ted 2 feels like a cynical attempt to desperately create a new trending hash-tag or quotable phrase, the film often reminds the audience of the ‘Thunder Buddies’ meme from the first film but lacks any of its own quotable or memorable dialogue or scenes. The hopeless attempts at brute-forcing its way into pop-culture relevance are often cringe-inducing and lack the subtlety and organic qualities of the original Ted film.
The film has an odd preoccupation with ‘black cocks’, the joke being that one cannot surf the internet without being figuratively bombarded with images of them, apparently. The joke is desperately unfunny and comes across (no pun intended) as a cynical attempt to be edgy and capture the zeitgeist. Worse still, after the first joke falls spectacularly flat, it is constantly referenced throughout the next excruciating two hours of running time.
You could never accuse Family Guy of being high-brow comedy but the skits and jokes in its prime, did require a degree of intelligence and knowledge of what was happening in the world and in pop-culture. Ted 2’s humour is aimed directly at the lowest common denominator and the jokes and references are no longer clever or witty, they merely reference something that is currently popular and expect the audience to laugh at the reference. In its prime Family Guy targeted this type of crude and obvious humour regularly.
There is an interesting scene where the characters visit an improv-comedy performance and Ted continues to throw out controversial subjects for comedy scenarios such as the offices of Charlie Hebdo or September 11th which the comedians on stage refuse to engage with. The concept seems ripe for a scene of the inappropriate brand of humour that MacFarlane excels at but ends up being all too brief and much of the comedy remains unexplored, instead resorting to obvious and unfunny references to pop-culture.
For example during his wedding reception, Ted mentions to his bride that later he will go “Fifty Shades of Bear” on her, the woman behind me laughed at that for some reason that I cannot fathom but I digress. Seth MacFarlane has managed to make E.L. James seem witty in comparison. His prolonged success has perhaps led to him becoming part of the mainstream he so often used to target for its lack of humour and self-awareness.
You see the original book is called Fifty Shades of Grey, the character Christian Grey is a sadist who engages in BDSM with his often non-consenting partner. His surname is Grey the shades of which are present in the lack of consent in his increasingly elaborate sex games and fantasies. Ted 2 makes the joke about Fifty Shades of Bear because Ted is a bear and he’s going to have sex with his wife, who is not a bear. Cue the shot of an ostrich, the lone member of an audience laughing at a terrible joke by himself.
Ted 2 manages to simultaneously tread the familiar ground of its predecessor and at the same time, completely fail to understand what made the original such a success.
The protagonist in the original film was John Bennett a thirty-something lovable loser played ably by Mark Wahlberg in the midst of his career resurrection as a talented comedic actor. Rest assured that Ted 2 puts a halt to his string of successful comedy roles.
Wahlberg does not necessarily do anything wrong in his performance, it is more a case of him having nothing to work with. The characters as a whole are far less human than in the original and as a result, far less likeable.
John was originally a loser, stuck in a rut and unable to break out and live his life because of the unruly influence of his childhood teddy bear. Now he is a barely-functioning man-baby unable to complete even the most simple of tasks without messing up.
Similarly Ted was formerly a likeable bad-boy; reminiscent of the friend we all have who is an utterly chaotic presence in our lives but who we keep around because they remind us of our carefree youth. Ted has now become a sad, aggressively bitter and vindictive individual, routinely verbally and physically attacking those around him.
The film’s entire concept of Ted becoming a legally recognised person is stripped of any emotion by the fact that he is completely horrible to be around for any extended period.
Mila Kunis is notably absent from her role as Lori, given an off-screen exit from the lives of John and Ted and replaced with a barely-functioning woman-child played by Amanda Seyfried (She is a lawyer that smokes weed when she is supposed to be working on a legal case, that is cool, right?). Mila Kunis has a lot of experience working on comedy productions and essentially functioned as the ‘straight man’ in the original film, the lone adult character through which the audience viewed John and Ted’s insanity.
Lori represented John’s growth as a person and his desire to mature as a person, but here we are in the sequel, every lesson from the first film is immediately forgotten.
The concept, like A Million Ways to Die in the West’s anachronistic set-up is ripe for comedy. Ted’s quest to become legally recognised as a human should have been a funny fish-out-of-water comedy whereby he tries to become a respectable person, putting his unruly past behind him. The set-up is completely ruined by Ted being unable to learn anything from his actions. He comes across as an entitled, obnoxious brat that does not deserve any respect. All of the characters in Ted 2 come across as boorish, aggressively stupid and selfish individuals that are utterly impossible to root for.
The lone amusing scene sees Ted find John’s pornography stash on his computer, John having been out of a relationship for a long time has been compiling a vast amount of increasingly niche pornography. Upon finding it, Ted suggests they both destroy the computer and then bury it at the bottom of Boston Harbour. The scene is genuinely funny and feels like something Peter and Quagmire would do in an episode of Family Guy.
The rest of the film feels incredibly dated; there are inordinate amounts of marijuana humour throughout, that make the film seem to be from the late-nineties/early noughties when marijuana was still considered a risqué subject.
The entire film is marred by its insistence on becoming a trending subject on Twitter. The references feel forced and eventually become exhausting to witness. There is even an Angry Birds reference, in a film released in 2015 there is a reference to Angry Birds.
Where the first film had its nostalgic Sam Jones/Flash Gordon cameo, Ted 2 simply brings him back to repeat the scenes that were initially funny in the first film.
Ted 2 as a whole is just a cynical rehash made for money, lacking any originality and merely retreading material that was more amusing in the original.
Patrick Warburton returns as Guy and there is a nice reference to his past work playing The Tick but this is a throwaway scene and Warburton continues to have his talents wasted in mainstream film and television, here playing an obnoxious bully that goes to Comic Con to push people around and generally act like an overly compensating moron.
Similarly Liam Neeson has a mildly amusing cameo, reprising his character from the Taken series and is in a short post-credits scene, but the funny moments are far too brief in a film that is far too long.
There is no reason to go and see Ted 2, if you have seen the original Ted you have already seen the funnier and more heartfelt version of it. Fans of the original would be better served not tarnishing their memories of the foul-mouthed but ultimately well-meaning Teddy bear. An utter disappointment and continues a worrying dip in the quality of Seth MacFarlane’s work.