Is This Film As Stuffed and Threadbare As Its Lead Character?

Director: SETH MACFARLANE/2015

Seth MacFarlane, the writer/director/creator of Ted and The Family Guy has pretty much established his brand of humor for a while now.  Crass political and cultural satire, with a hint of sweetness, and the occasional big song and dance number are his staple.  For a while it has worked for him, with mixed results, encouraging a loyal fan base of his animated television series to cross over and pay for his films where he can truly “let loose” above the strong-armed watch of the FCC, who he has his characters sing about in The Family Guy.  But his films are starting to pull him down.  What may work for a 30 minute animated show is starting to wear thin in a full-length film.

Ted was an unlikely hit a few years ago.  Telling the tale of a child’s toy that was brought to life through one boy’s wish, Ted, a teddy bear belonging to John (Mark Wahlberg), grows up with his child companion.  As adults, they continue their childhood friendship by finishing each other’s sentences, playing juvenile pranks, smoking lots of weed, and cursing like sailors in their Boston apartment.  Mila Kunis played Lori, John’s longtime girlfriend who longs for him to grow up, get a good job and commit to her through marriage.  Following some ups and downs, and a funny encounter with Flash Gordon himself, Sam Jones, Ted finally tries to land in the nice, sweet ending in the midst of a crass-infested comedy, in the vein of the best offerings of the Farrelly Brothers.

Some things worked and other things missed, but on the whole Ted surprised a lot of people by its success.  It also earned Seth MacFarlane a chance to star in his own comedy, A Million Ways to Die in the West, which incidentally is one of those ways when you actually watch it.  Eager to get back to a hit, Seth returns with his talking bear in this sequel.

Ted 2 picks up 6 months after John and Lori’s wedding, and apparent divorce.  Mila Kunis was smart enough to not come back for the sequel and her character is simply cast aside now, in the name of convince.  This sequel, instead focuses on Ted and his unlikely marriage to his grocery store check-out girlfriend, Tami Lynn (Jessica Barth).  A year after the nuptials, and following lots of fighting and knocking on the door of divorce themselves, Ted tells Tami Lynn that he wants to raise a kid with her as a means of saving their marriage.

Being that he is a bear, they’ll need a surrogate, and the film seeks to make a lot of laughter out of typical gross-out humor that will naturally happen when two pot smoking characters encounter a semen donation center.  The film then takes a left turn when Ted and Tami Lynn apply to adopt instead raising the suspicion of the government who denies them their adoption application on the basis that Ted is not a real person.  MacFarlane uses this quest by Ted to find a lawyer who will take his case to court to prove his “personhood” as a way to skewer opponents of same-sex marriage which Ted’s plight is now a stand-in for. The rest of the film is then about this quest for “personhood”.

Amanda Seyfried (Les MisèrablesA Million Ways to Die in the West) is Samantha, a brand new attorney, who is given the case by her firm to work pro bono as a means of building experience. She takes Ted’s case and becomes a possible love interest for John who is still not over Lori’s leaving him.

Most of the film consists of the same antics, jokes, foul-language, and bong hitting that populated the first film.  They are all stepped up a notch since it’s a sequel, but each joke mostly land with a thud.  Even Ted’s nemesis from the first film, Donny (Giovanni Ribisi-Saving Private Ryan, Avatar), gets a recycled plot as he is still after Ted.

Ted 2 is perhaps the worst film of the year so far, but sadly it is destined to be a hit by a population who never seems to tire of being given the same film over and over, and who thinks shouting the F-word and getting high are now the staples of high comedy instead of intelligent situational humor or physical comedy.  The Farrelly Brothers showed in There’s Something About Mary, that even in a crass film, you can still have both.  Here, it is just the crassness substituting for humor.

There is a hilarious moment or two, where I actually laughed, as Ted and John attend a comedy club on improv night. The setting of the climax at New York’s Comicon provided some nice moments as well, especially Patrick Warburton donning his famous costume from The Tick.  Liam Neeson has a mildly amusing cameo (and returns for a scene after the credits), as does Patrick Stewart, but on the whole this thing was a mess.

Even Morgan Freeman, with his small part, can’t breath life or gravitas into the whole affair. Remarking in the film to Ted, where he is speaking about the character, about how Ted could have been so much more than he was but that he has squandered his life and has brought nothing of value to the world he lives in.  He could easily be speaking about the film itself, and not just the character.  There is nothing of value here.  And given that Seth MacFarlane has shown that he is capable of much more, it is all the more disappointing.

The Farrelly Brothers, in their prime, could pull you through the muck of crassness that was all throughout their films and still protect their protagonist’s optimistic outlook and general goodness, leaving the heart-touching moment intact when all was said and done.  Seth MacFarlane seems to have lost that ability, especially with his last 2 efforts.  Now he is just throwing darts, and farts, in the hopes that people won’t see through the mist and haze of the bong smoke that clouds his character’s world.  Because if they do, they’ll realize that Ted 2 is a recycled package of old jokes, ludeness for its own sake, and mean-spirited attacks on various groups in society without any of the razor-sharp wit that Seth MacFarlane has exhibited in the past.  Ted 2 is as stuffed and threadbare as its lead, so save your money.