Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Ted 2

3.5/4

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Amanda Seyfried, Jessica Barth, Giovanni Ribisi, John Carroll Lynch, John Slattery, and the voice of Seth MacFarlane

Rated R for Crude and Sexual Content, Pervasive Language, and Some Drug Use

As much as I loved "Ted" (it made my Top 10 list that year), I didn't think it would be well-served with a sequel.  It told a complete story, and more importantly, the source of humor appeared to be fully exploited by the end of the film.  But because it became the highest grossing R-rated comedy of all time, it was only a matter of time before we saw the foul-mouthed, pot-obsessed teddy bear again on the big screen.  My excitement died down when I saw the first trailer, but rest easy.  Ted's as hilarious as ever.

Ted (MacFarlane) has just married the love of his life, Tami-Lynn (Barth).  But their wedded bliss is short-lived; a year later, they're on the verge of splitting up.  A co-worker suggests that their problems would be solved by having a baby.  Both Ted and Tami-Lynn think this is a great idea, but the state rules that he is not a person (adding insult to injury, this causes him to lose everything from his job to his membership to a local restaurant).  Unwilling to take this lying down, Ted and his best buddy, the recently single John (Wahlberg), take his case to court.  That gets him in touch with Samantha Jackson (Seyfried), a young lawyer recently out of law school.

The bad thing about this movie is that it has a plot.  Seth MacFarlane's best bits have always been the little jokes and asides added for flavor, and that hasn't changed here.  The original "Ted" had the virtue of being connected to nostalgia, but here the story is a metaphor for gay rights.  Although I respect MacFarlane's politics (he is a staunch supporter of gay rights) and will grant him the fact that he had no way of knowing that gay marriage would become legal in all 50 states a few weeks before the film was released, that doesn't make up for the fact that the story just isn't interesting.

Judging by the film, MacFarlane doesn't appear to be too interested in it either.  It's just something he uses to hang the jokes and skits, which range from crude and vulgar to the downright sick (duh).  MacFarlane gets a lot of mileage by taking our expectations and twisting them for comic effect.  For example, Amanda Seyfried, the lovely and talented actress that she is, is known for playing sweet and demure characters.  Here, she lets loose a few f-bombs and rivals Ted's affection for marijuana.  Considering the lines she says and the antics going on around her, it's amazing that Seyfried is able to keep a straight face.  Morgan Freeman also spouts some profanity, but to be fair, "Wanted" beat MacFarlane to the punch.  That said, Freeman is able to make the word "fuck" sound so dramatic and deep.  Very impressive.

Seth MacFarlane has to be one of the nicest guys in Hollywood.  The only other reason I can think of that allows him to get so many celebrity cameos into his movies is that he has a lot of truly damaging pictures of people, but I doubt it.  They would have to be very damaging and he knows a lot of people.  People from Jay Leno (proving that he is a very good sport) to Liam Neeson (whose appearance is oh so weirdly hilarious) makes appearances.  Character actor Bill Smitrovich, whose scenes as Ted's strange boss earned the biggest laughs in the original, only shows up for one semi-serious scene, but there are plenty of howlingly funny moments that make up for it.  Less impressive is Donny, the character once again played by Giovanni Ribisi.  I like the actor, but the character didn't fit in the first one and isn't much better here (and the fate of his cohort, the Hasbro CEO played by John Carroll Lynch, is a loophole that isn't tied up).  MacFarlane should have gotten another character or written him out completely since Lynch provides enough sleaziness.  One bit I liked was the opening credits, which occur over a dance number straight out of a '40's musical number.  It puts the opening from "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" to shame and is worth the price of admission in and of itself.

The film's weakest portion is the ending.  While it does involve an over-the-top fight at Comic-Con that's enjoyable and ends with a very funny joke at our expense, that doesn't prevent it from feeling like a retread of the original.

Still, if you want to laugh and laugh hard, see "Ted 2."

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