Written by Dylan Brandsema
Ted 2 picks up immediately from where the first film left off – at the wedding of Ted and Tami-Lynn, showing us something we’ve already seen. Then, it skips a year in time, and their marriage has met with much turmoil – they’re fighting and throwing things at one another the way couples only do in movies.
Director Seth MacFarlane didn’t have to show us the wedding scene again — he could have done a recap of the first the film instead. He could’ve made this the first Ted movie and showed the entire first movie’s plot as a montage. Or he could’ve nothing at all, and pick up right in present time, but he didn’t – he chose to show us something we’ve already seen as a way of establishing relevance in the movie’s current actions. I bring this up because Ted 2, as a whole, really showcases the progression of MacFarlane’s ability as a director. Ted was a solid, hilarious, almost-stoner comedy, that captured the essence of his animated shows well, while also bringing his craft to a new medium. His sophomore film effort, A Million Ways To Die In The West was an awful, abominable failure that barely earned it’s title in the both the western and comedy genre. Even if it doesn’t always hit the right notes, Ted 2 shows that MacFarlane learned from his mistakes, and his skills as a director have greatly improved.
This time around, MacFarlane’s narrative is much more grounded in concrete, as opposed to the first Ted, which, let’s be honest, was pretty much just a 106-minute Family Guy episode. In a way, that Family Guy/American Dad mentality exists here as well, except with much more focus on story and characters, as opposed to random gags that, while funny, don’t add much for substance. This shows, above all, in the writing – MacFarlane’s writing partners Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild return once again for the screenplay, and anyone paying attention who knows the MacFarlane tropes will be able to tell who wrote what, as there’s a surprising amount of drama in the story of Ted 2, much of which, even when false, is very well-executed. The film’s plot in fact, is dramatic in itself, and much heavier than the first film.
Ted (MacFarlane) and Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth) wish to have a child to re-amp the quality of their marriage, but the state of Massachusetts has declared him as a non-human, annulling it. To make it worse, Donny (Giovanni Ribisi), the creepy stalker from the first film is back, working for toy company Hasbro – he wants to kidnap Ted (again), cut him open to see how he works, and make a million carbon copies of him just for company profit. It’s up to Ted, John (Wahlberg), and an up-and-coming lawyer, Sam Jackson, played by Amanda Seyfried, to start a civil rights case and get Ted’s citizenship back so he can start a family, all while avoiding a madman who wants to turn Ted into dough. Serious stuff, but treated with the right amount of drama and comedy that makes the film’s pacing and flow almost seamless. There’s moments in the third act, such as the absolutely off-the-walls product-placement-filled Comic Con fight between all the characters that, tonally, seem a little out of place, but otherwise, there is a solid sense of balance.
In his third directorial effort, MacFarlane has found that harmony between both dramatic and comedic elements that A Million Ways To Die In The West desperately needed – he’s become much more self-aware in his strange auteurship. The traditional MacFarlane gross-out gags pop up where you expect them to, but they’re not distracting. They don’t deter from the big picture – the progression of the story, and how it effects the characters are what matters most, and that is Ted 2’s greatest strength. But let’s talk about the comedy, while we’re on the subject…
Ted 2 contains a scene in which it’s characters make fun of Charlie Hebdo, Robin Williams, and 9/11 all at the same time. They’re not mocking them in a way that’s relevant the story, or using them as satire – they’re at an improv comedy club shouting them out as suggestion topics, deliberately setting out to be as offensive as possible, and directly implying that those things are hilarious. If that’s not an example of the type of humor this movie encompasses, nothing can be. If you’re even a moderate fan of MacFarlane’s work, or at least have a general awareness, you should know what to expect. If you’re going to go into a film that goes out of its way, several times, in fact, to compare the black male genitalia to the grand canyon, and then contains a scene in which Mark Wahlberg lies on the floor of a Sperm Bank covered of semen while a living teddy bear takes a picture of it expecting something Oscar-worthy, you’re wasting your time. MacFarlane knows exactly what he’s doing and he doesn’t apologize for it.
In terms of performances, everyone’s fine. Wahlberg and Barth deliver what’s expected of them, even if it doesn’t require them to much exercise their abilities, and the addition of Amanda Seyfried, partly in absence of Mila Kunis, who starred in the previous film, fares well. At this point in his career, Seth MacFarlane has become so good at voice acting, we often forget who we’re listening to – which is the point of voice acting, is it not? He directs himself as the voice of an external character exceedingly better than he does in a live-action role, and it’s probable that his gradual positive development as a director of film has come from the experience of doing both of these things. There’s also enough celebrity cameos sprinkled throughout that you probably won’t notice them all upon first viewing.
The point is that Ted 2 works. It succeeds at being what it aims to be — a good time, and a surprisingly rewarding and well-crafted one at that. After this, it’s interesting to wonder where MacFarlane will go next. As long as it’s not “A BILLION Ways To Die In The West”, or a feature film adaption of Dads, I think we’ll be okay.
OVERALL RATING: 8/10