Comedy sequels are often pure tripe. For every 22 Jump Street there’s at least 40 of the ilk of Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls. Ted 2 veers closer to the former, even though you might expect Seth MacFarlane to favour Jim Carrey emerging from a Rhino’s anus to anything resembling character development.
Surprisingly though, something about Ted 2 just works, and it arguably stems from the core plot itself. In the original Ted, the worn-out narrative of ‘my girlfriend wants me to grow up’ gave the film a fairly negative through-line. That, coupled with the relentless gross-out gags and consequence-free drug humour, culminated in a film that had laughs, but wasn’t particularly likeable. And that’s coming from a writer who has happily fallen asleep to Family Guy re-runs on BBC3 more times than he can remember. And I mean that in a good way.
This time around, we’ve a much more passable plot – the US government has finally decided to do something about Ted, after years of letting the bear-who-came-alive-through-wishing-based-magic roam around doing whatever he pleases.
Now though, Ted and Tammy Lynn (who is much more of a character this time, portrayed with great comic timing by Jessica Barth) have decided to try and adopt a baby. Their application to do so raises red flags all over the shop, resulting in Ted losing his job, having his marriage annulled, and generally being thrown out on his arse by ‘the system.’
Suddenly, Ted is an outcast minority, which makes for a far more engaging story than Mark Wahlberg simply trying to appease Mila Kunis. With this decision to refocus the plot, suddenly you’re looking at a comedy sequel that pushes its characters into interesting new places.
Primarily, this new story necessitates Ted getting a lawyer so the ‘thunder buddies’ can ‘sue the government for his civil rights,’ as Wahlberg’s John puts it. Enter Amanda Seyfried as Sam L Jackson (yep, there are jokes about that name), a weed-smoking and pop-culture-illiterate newbie attorney, and the only legal representation the central duo can afford.
She’s a character that fans of MacFarlane’s TV work will love. Sam is adept with a one liner, naïve enough to set up other character’s gags without noticing, and capable of belting out a surprisingly emotional music number (which hits the spot much more successfully than the lengthy unnecessary dance sequence [Copyright S. MacFarlane, 1999] that precedes it).
As introduced-for-the-sequel comedy characters go, I’m struggling to think of a better one in recent times. Sam gels with the ensemble far better than Kunis’ Lori ever did, and her journey with Ted and John packs not only big laughs, but genuinely emotional moments, too.
Ted 2 isn’t perfect though, and there are a few fairly big annoyances that rip a couple of stars from the rating at the end of this review. Plotlines from the first film are forced back in to shoehorn some more action into proceedings, which tears focus away from the winning ‘is Ted a human?’ strand. This jars, a lot, and isn’t particularly funny.
There’s also a string of third act scenes set during New York Comic-Con that miss their potential by some distance. The sweet idea of Ted finding some solace among the geeky attendees – who have forged a friendly community based on their differences to ‘normal’ society – is quickly thrown out in favour of some shameful nerd bullying. Although laughs came from elsewhere in the cinema during these scenes, this writer felt more offended than anything. Which is a shame, because I love a lot of this film.
Indeed, for the most part, fans of MacFarlane will find plenty to like here. There’s even a chance that Ted 2 could be the film to turn people who haven’t liked his work before. There’s still drug use and gross moments, but there are a lot more spoken jokes and sight gags this time around.
Wahlberg and MacFarlane’s chemistry shines throughout, and Seyfried’s addition really elevates the humour to a new level. And although Morgan Freeman’s role is a bit of a waste, there’s a cameo from another Hollywood star that more than makes up for it. In fact, that scene’s probably worth the price of admission alone. Well, on 2-for-1 day at least.
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