History will show Seth MacFarlane’s entire career to be most shaped by one bit from a second-season episode of Family Guy, in which Peter trips running home, scuffs his knee, and rocks back and forth, cradling it in pain, for so long that it stops being funny and then somehow becomes funny again.
The lesson MacFarlane seems to have taken away from the success of that bit is that if a joke runs out of momentum, it should eventually recover is you just keep the scene going. On Family Guy and American Dad, that has led to some of their most hysterical gags. In Ted and A Million Ways to Die in the West, it evidenced that MacFarlane’s scuffed-knee persistence can’t sustain itself over the course of a feature film. Ted 2 is the most disappointing proof of that yet.
Ted 2 is cursed with being bloated in every way. The movie goes on too long. Each individual scene goes on too long. The jokes that work go on too long; the jokes that don’t go on even longer. Hell, for a stoner movie about a foul-mouthed teddy bear, the kitchen-sink script manages to showcase not just one, but two extended courtroom sequences.
Those judicial threads form a large part of the backbone of Ted 2, which finds Ted (voiced by MacFarlane) and his best friend John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) fighting for Ted’s right to be acknowledged as a person by the United States Government, so he and his human wife Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth) can adopt a child.
Other threads are included therein, like John’s flirtatious relationship with Ted’s lawyer, Samantha L. Jackson (Amanda Seyfried), and the perpetually annoying original owner of Ted, Donny (Giovanni Ribisi), trying to kidnap him again. Really, the loose framework exists purely to let MacFarlane’s brain pinball from scene to scene.
The trouble is that in Ted 2, it’s more obvious than ever just how scattered MacFarlane’s attention span is and how unfocussed he can be, despite the sharpness of his wit when its on target. There are some moments of pure genius, like full-scene homages to Planes, Trains & Automobiles and Jurassic Park that are shrewdly filmed. But then, there’s also a lazy cavalcade of cameos paraded through the two-hour comedy, usually for no reason but to maintain the attention of audiences bored by the same shtick.
Alas, the amazingly good timing of a movie about equal rights opening the theatres the same day gay marriage is legalized in the United States is completely squandered by countless homophobic jokes polluting the script. And they’re not even an exception in quality; perhaps the worst crime Ted 2 commits is that for way too much of it, it’s just generally not very funny.
Ted 2 is one of those films where two-thirds of the movie-going public already know whether they’re seeing it or not. To the remaining third, know this: if you’ve always wished someone would make a movie that featured both a lavish, ‘50s-style opening dance numbers in tuxes and a sloppy, slapstick scene involving Wahlberg’s character being covered head-to-toe in sperm bank donations, this is the scatter-brained movie for you.
But you’ll still find it too long.