In 2012, Family Guy creator, Seth MacFarlane made a hilarious and memorable film debut with Ted, a movie that made the audience believe that an adorable teddy bear could be a rude, stoned-out and highly inappropriate bad influence on a grown man. Ted went on to surpass The Hangover as the top-grossing R-rated comedy opening of all time to date, and that, paired with its strong critical reception, made it pretty well a lock for a sequel. Now, Ted 2 has arrived.
MacFarlane had to change his initial story idea for Ted 2 after the release of We’re the Millers in 2013, since that idea also involved the lead characters driving cross-country with an RV full of weed. After the first movie’s female lead, Mila Kunis got pregnant as well, the female lead had to be changed for the sequel to boot. This puts Ted 2 on shakier ground than it deserves, though Seth MacFarlane should certainly be commended for salvaging the project with a new story and female lead, without dragging out production in the process.
Commendable as Ted 2’s revised direction is however, there’s no denying that this is another comedy sequel that’s sadly inferior to its predecessor. The original Ted is definitely a tough act to follow, but with the necessary story changes, and the inevitable drawback of decreased novelty behind the Ted character himself, Ted 2 doesn’t quite keep pace with the original. Fans of the first movie should definitely approach it with revised expectations.
Still, I would be remiss to claim that Ted 2 isn’t funny. It most certainly is. It’s just not quite as funny as the first movie, particularly with some of the surprisingly serious subject matter around Ted’s central plot arc that the movie strangely plays completely straight. In the end however, at least you’ll laugh more than you will scratch your head, even if head-scratching is nonetheless going to be inevitable with this sequel.
The original Ted, despite its title, was actually about Mark Wahlberg’s character, human male lead, John Bennett. After John’s childhood wish brings Ted to life, John finds that his teddy bear doesn’t become the best influence into adulthood, and the first movie was about John’s quest to grow up, and move beyond his prolonged boyhood to commit to a higher purpose. Put simply, Ted was a great example of a brilliant and heartfelt comedy that was disguised as a profane and juvenile comedy, and that’s why its crass humour worked really well.
Ted 2 however is very much about Ted himself, with the movie shifting focus to Ted, having now married his cashier girlfriend, Tami-Lynn, played once again by Jessica Barth. This doesn’t hold up in the eyes of the law however, after Ted and Tami-Lynn decide they want to adopt a child, and Ted is deemed to not be a person by the American government, effectively taking away all of his civil rights when this ruling gets out into the system. From there, the sequel involves Ted trying to be recognized as a person, despite being a teddy bear.
This sounds like it could lend itself to some solid humour, and sometimes, it really does. Like I said though, Ted 2 is actually inclined to mainly play this struggle with Ted completely straight, and this works to mixed effect. It’s easy to draw comparisons between the movie’s story and real-life historical trials centering on racial minorities that were declared property by the government centuries ago, and in fact, Ted 2 announces that connection pretty blatantly in several scenes. It’s kind of a clever idea, but it’s perhaps too grim for a comedy of this nature, especially since whatever social commentary the movie is trying to make feels like it’s immediately outdated, especially with the movie having the strange fortune of releasing on the same day that gay marriage was ruled legal for all of the U.S. by the Supreme Court.
Also somewhat frustrating about Ted 2 is the fact that the removal of Lori completely undoes most any growth that John experienced in the original Ted. John is now a sad sack who refuses to hook up with the many women that are constantly throwing themselves at him, and for most of the movie, Mark Wahlberg just feels like he’s along for the ride now. By taking the focus away from John, Ted 2 feels less grounded than its predecessor, which means that the jokes can stretch themselves more, but it also means that the sequel feels less accessible and heartfelt as a result.
Taking the place of Lori is a new character, young attorney, Sam Jackson, played by Amanda Seyfried, reuniting with writer/director/star, Seth MacFarlane after starring in last year’s A Million Ways to Die in the West. Seyfried’s wide-eyed likability makes Sam an endearing enough replacement female lead, one that certainly feels friendlier than the more demanding Lori. That said though, she isn’t given as much story material to work with, despite being the only person who agrees to try and represent Ted in court, and this makes any attempt to build a relationship between her and John feel like it rings a bit hollow. MacFarlane tries to add more character to Sam by creating a running gag that she’s unfamiliar with modern pop culture as a whole, and this services MacFarlane’s panache for pop culture gags very well, but it’s not enough to completely make Sam feel like an adequate replacement for Lori, especially when the movie writes a pretty dark turnout for the relationship between John and Lori right from the start.
There are several returning characters from the first movie, namely Giovanni Ribisi as creepy villain, Donny, who now works as a janitor for Hasbro, with the sequel now pretending that his son doesn’t exist. Beyond winking callbacks to the first movie though, these returning characters don’t serve much of a purpose, and even Ted 2’s climax doesn’t make them any more interesting for the sequel, which is giving high prioritization to Ted’s story arc over anyone else’s.
Considering that this is a Seth MacFarlane movie, there’s also lots of celebrity cameos to boot, and I won’t spoil these. The cameos are often the best part of the movie however, even if their gags don’t really fit with the rest of the story in most cases. Even so, these cameo appearances are just too funny to find distracting, and they’re often the point where Ted 2 actually does manage to rival its predecessor in terms of laughs.
Rather than create characters that feel grounded, Ted 2 tries the altered approach of taking more after MacFarlane’s television work in shows like Family Guy, in that its personalities feel specifically set up to satirize, not to elicit any kind of audience relation. This does still lead to plenty of strong character gags, but it does leave Ted 2 feeling like it’s ultimately contributing less to its personalities than the original movie did, save for Ted himself.
Ted 2 seems to entirely revolve around Ted’s civil rights case, even if it does attempt to also create arcs for John and Donny. Even John and Donny don’t have stories that feel all that consequential though, despite the efforts that the movie makes to give Donny a new and extra ridiculous scheme to get his own Ted. Given his new job placement at Hasbro, you might be able to put together how the movie justifies putting Donny back into the picture.
Despite the surprisingly serious subject matter at play though, what really matters about Ted 2 is whether or not it’s funny. Most of the time, it doesn’t struggle to get laughs, particularly if you’re a fan of MacFarlane’s work, and especially the original Ted. Even being a sequel that’s not quite as good as its predecessor, Ted 2 is still funnier than the majority of R-rated comedies, and this speaks volumes about how great a concept Ted had to begin with.
In some respects, the stark serious nature of Ted’s case feels a little misguided, since it somewhat misses the point of why the original Ted was so successful. It was down-to-earth and likable, despite featuring a sentient teddy bear as a core lead. Ted 2 is still likable, but it’s no longer down-to-earth. MacFarlane has really run with his original idea behind Ted, and sometimes, he runs too far with it, to the point where audiences might feel a bit alienated by the weirdness.
Again though, despite the head-scratching you’ll occasionally have to expect, Ted 2 at least stands on the virtue that it’s more funny than not. MacFarlane’s established following will definitely get the most out of the experience, but even general moviegoers will find that the story offers enough laughs to justify itself, even if it doesn’t recapture that lightning-in-a-bottle that the original movie pulled off.
Seth MacFarlane has once again opted to direct Ted 2, on top of writing it, producing it and starring in it. As with the original, Ted 2 really feels like a labour of love, and doesn’t come off as being a phoned-in, studio-mandated sequel, even at its most unsatisfactory moments.
As MacFarlane can be trusted to do, he wholesale commits to his idea for this sequel, sometimes to a fault. MacFarlane’s direction is still exceptional in most cases, and the way that he executes off-the-wall pop culture humour remains unmatched. MacFarlane also gets lots of mileage out of his cast, who are energetic and lovable, clearly having a great time making this movie. That helps to make even the especially ambitious gags easier to enjoy for the audience, since you can see the actors are having just as much fun with each other as they are with MacFarlane himself, even having to once again interact with a CG effect.
As with the first movie, MacFarlane also does a brilliant job at making audiences forget that Ted is an effect that isn’t really there. Audiences will root for Ted here on the sheer basis that Ted feels real, and that’s why, even when the story feels misguided, viewers will still care about Ted’s trial, and still want him to win. Naturally, MacFarlane voicing Ted also helps in terms of his direction, since he’s unencumbered in the role, and is once again able to effortlessly steal the show, despite taking on a heavy part of the comedic burden upon his own shoulders.
MacFarlane’s direction is a little less reserved than it was in the first movie here, but it’s still quite fun and entertaining to watch. MacFarlane realizes the comedy better than he does the drama for sure, but when Ted 2 is able to simply let loose and have fun like it deserves to, MacFarlane’s clear love of old-school entertainment values continues to contrast hilariously with the movie’s modern edge.
Seth MacFarlane has the unenviable task of trying to bottle lightning once again with Ted 2, and it seems sadly inevitable that he doesn’t quite manage it twice. Ted 2 is still very funny, but it doesn’t outpace its predecessor, and it certainly won’t be one of this year’s best comedies.
For fans of MacFarlane and/or Ted however, Ted 2 should be solid and amusing enough to enjoy. If you’re just looking for a solid R-rated Summer comedy, and you’ve already seen Spy, then I can also recommend Ted 2 on that basis, even if it’s nothing that will leave you with sore sides on the way out. There are a couple of truly side-splitting scenes in Ted 2 for sure, with the movie thankfully not giving them all away in the trailers, but the movie delivers more healthy laughs than true gut-busting hilarity.
Even if you’re not a fan of MacFarlane’s work, it’s at least easy to respect the man for not wanting to be creatively stagnant. MacFarlane goes to great lengths to separate Ted 2 from its predecessor, which is certainly praiseworthy, though the new formula doesn’t quite match the charm of the former one. Ted 2 should still be applauded for not recycling the first movie and trying something different though, and it most certainly gets an A for effort.
If you didn’t care for the first Ted, there’s no reason to see the sequel, but if you’re eager to see more of its title character, Ted 2 tries its darndest to entertain. It doesn’t always succeed, but its moments of questionable writing are easily forgiven when its title character still manages to bring the laughs, even in his darkest hour.
- Ambitious sequel idea that avoids re-treading its predecessor
- Ted himself is still very funny
- MacFarlane's smart direction still creates lots of funny, memorable sequences
- Lori's removal is a downer
- Social satire is sometimes played too straight
- Subplots largely fail to make an impact