Ted 2 (2015)
The older I get, the less of a Seth Macfarlane fan I am. I enjoyed the first couple of “Family Guy” seasons I watched just out of high school, and I even found quite a bit to like in the first iteration of Ted, but this is absolutely a sequel that didn’t need to get made. Whereas the first Ted succeeded in the newness of its premise and as a new venue for Macfarlane to offer variations on his lowbrow but often startling humor, the second only serves to create an acute case of Macfarlane exhaustion.
Comedies don’t often need a whole lot when it comes to plotting so long as the humor is derived from knowing the characters inside and out. That doesn’t work here, as the characters’ only real trait is really liking weed and no one comes across as likable. Ted 2 begins to tell the story of Ted (voiced by Macfarlane in his standard Peter Griffin accent) and his new wife Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth) trying to find a way to have a baby because, well, Ted is a penisless doll. At first, the idea is to either steal a sample from someone famous or get a donor. When it turns out prior drug use has rendered Tami-Lynn infertile, attempted adoption is the next step.
Macfarlane decides to spin off the adoption storyline into one of Ted trying to gain recognition as a human being through the courts system. His attempt at adoption brings to light that he is seen as a toy in the government’s eyes, meaning that not only is he unable to adopt, he needs to fight to avoid being labeled as mere property. Ted, his best friend John (Mark Wahlberg), and new lawyer Samantha L. Jackson (Amanda Seyfried) are tasked with convincing the world that Ted is more than a Christmas gift. This plot turn happens almost absurdly late in the movie, as it is most certainly the central plot point. As a result, Ted 2 drags on and on and on, much like one of its characters might if engaged in conversation after a bong hit.
The pacing of Ted 2 is just mind-boggling, and it’s tough to say if Macfarlane is truly capable of understanding what makes a feature-length production work. Bizarre amounts of time are spent on inconsequential scenes, the plot derails time and time again, and a whole lot of sighs are induced along the way. A movie like this could be trimmed to around the standard 90-minute mark and hit a whole lot harder. At two hours, there’s just far too much fluff and bullshit.
All of the plot and pacing misgivings I have would be far less dominant in my mind if Ted 2 happened to be funnier. There are several funny moments, but there are far more attempts at laughs that fall completely flat. It gets hard to even stay focused when reductive stoner humor and often callous characterization dominates the landscape. Comedies can operate outside traditional boundaries better than perhaps any other genre, but they can’t be vacant vehicles for one-liners. In other words, I had and still have no need for an episode of “Family Guy” that is roughly the length of three “Breaking Bad” episodes.
I think a lot of this is how limited Macfarlane is (or at least has shown himself to be) as a comedy writer. He goes back to the same wells over and over again, and while he’s become very successful, I have to imagine he’s lost the part of his audience that helped bring back “Family Guy” more than a decade ago. We all know that he loves to fit show tunes into the mix at an alarming rate. We’re certain there will be endless references to ’80s pop culture strewn throughout anything he writes. Hell, there are even lines in this movie that are ripped directly from “Family Guy” episodes, and it would’ve been better if Macfarlane had chosen a different actor to voice Ted in the first place. Using the exact same voice for Ted as he uses for Griffin creates a lack of separation that just isn’t welcome.
I have now seen all three of Macfarlane’s movies, and there just hasn’t been much of anything in the way of progress across them. Those flashback asides, those elongated musical numbers, those pointless celebrity cameos, they’re always along for the ride. I’m completely willing to go with the old “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” adage where appropriate; it just isn’t appropriate for Macfarlane. I absolutely believe the guy has it in him to be funny, as he’s had plenty of banner individual moments in his work. What I’m not sure about are his abilities to create an endearing character, coherent and engaging plot, or fluid script. I know that I’d really like to see him try, though, but perhaps the glimmers of hope in the first Ted and A Million Ways to Die in the West were false signifiers.