Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Ted 2 Review (2015)

Seth MacFarlane’s “Ted 2” is overwritten, which is peculiar considering MacFarlane’s work is usually underwritten. The MacFarlane style joke structure consists of random, isolated gags. Some of those isolated gags may be funny but they could be watched on YouTube—out of the context of the show-- and still be just as funny. The humor doesn’t service the overall narrative or develop characters.  In “Ted 2,” the MacFarlane-style joke structure is still present but there’s just a lot more story to get through. The sad thing is that it needn’t have been so complex—the central dilemma and central buddy relationship is, I think, compelling enough to fuel the movie. However MacFarlane simply mixes in too many ingredients and doesn’t want to edit, making the movie an overlong slog to get through.

“Ted 2” continues the saga of Bostonian John (Mark Wahlberg) and his animatronic, trash talking, weed smoking teddy bear Ted (voiced by MacFarlane).  Ted marries his girlfriend Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth) and decides to have kids. The first twenty minutes are strong. Per usual, the gags are uneven but the action moves along quickly and I appreciate that MacFarlane—and co writers Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild-- try to develop the titular bear. In “Ted” Ted was the obnoxious slacker best friend, keeping John from growing up and being in a mature relationship with Lori (Mila Kunis, absent from the sequel). This time around Ted has slightly matured and moved to center stage—he’s still obnoxious, he still smokes weed but he’s grown as a character.

The main thrust of the movie comes when Ted finds out he’s not a person but property. With the help of young hot lawyer Samantha (Amanda Seyfried) the three fight for Ted’s civil rights. As ridiculous as this conflict may be it’s far more compelling than simply having Ted be the slacker best friend. And it seems like a logical next step in his development that Ted’s true identity would come into question.

However, around the halfway point “Ted 2” plummets with the reintroduction of Donny, (Giovanni Ribbisi) the creeper villain from the first movie that’s trying to steal Ted yet again. First of all this storyline is completely unfunny and superfluous. The civil rights case through line provides sufficient conflict and opportunities for humor, so I’m not sure why MacFarlane felt it was necessary to include this additional, forced tension. Even worse, it’s rehashed from the first film. What’s the point in trying to further develop your characters if you’re just going to step backwards?

This recycling of the villain and added tension speaks to the main problem with the movie: it’s tediously plotted. “Ted 2” wants to be everything; it wants to be a two-guys-sitting-on-a-couch-getting-high comedy, and an action comedy. It wants to be a road trip comedy and a romantic comedy (between John and Samantha). It wants to be a relationship comedy (between Ted and Tamie-Lynn) and dramedy about civil rights. Problem is, there’s way too much going on and it’s frustrating to watch because most of it could easily be cut out. Had it been just about the civil rights case and the friendship between Ted and John, the film would have worked but MacFarlane makes it needlessly complex. In fact he even struggles to maintain and resolve the various plot strands over the course of the movie. The Donny dilemma eventually fizzles out, making you wonder why MacFarlane wasted our time in the first place. At 115 minutes “Ted 2” is too long, overstuffed and—due to the isolated random nature of the jokes-- moves at a snail’s pace, three of the worst problems that can plague a comedy. Very few successful comedies are two hours and pacing should generally be quick so as not to lose comedic momentum.

Sporting a Bostonian accent as thick as molasses, Wahlberg is funny and endearing even though he’s not given much to do. He was the star of the first one but since the sequel is Ted-centric, he’s crammed into the dopey supportive sidekick role, who’s sole conflict is trying to meet a new girl. His friendship with Ted was the driving force of the original but here it sort of takes a back seat to everything else until a heavily dramatic sequence at the end that feels like it was transplanted from an entirely different movie.

Meanwhile Seyfried essentially plays the dream girl; attractive, intelligent, has her life together but you know, also cool with getting high and chucking apples at random strangers at night. Seyfried demonstrates that she has good comedic timing and charm but ultimately she’s beholden to the plot; serving as the love interest for John.

I did laugh during “Ted 2” but not nearly enough. The inconsistency of the jokes is made worse by the overplotting. The picture can’t sustain comedic momentum and eventually runs out of gas, crawling along to its inevitable conclusion. But the worst part about the movie is that all of this could have easily been avoided if MacFarlane had done some editing, at the script level and the film level.


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