The day the Supreme Court decides on marriage equality out of seemingly nowhere, Universal releases a movie about a teddy bear suing for personhood.
Ted 2 sees writer/director/producer/star Seth MacFarlane finally deliver the dud everyone expected of him when he first got into cinema. To save a failing marriage, Ted (MacFarlane) and Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth) decide to have a child, but with the old-fashioned method and artificial insemination off the table, they have to adopt. When filing the paperwork, it is discovered that Ted isn’t legally a person. Out of apparent spite, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts goes back and annuls his marriage, cancels his bank accounts and takes away his job. Ted and John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) sue the state for personhood, but without money are stuck with rookie lawyer Samantha Leslie Jackson (Amanda Seyfried).
Ted 2 is just not funny. It feels super long. It both is, in reality, longer than it deserves to be — it takes 40 minutes of bad marriage gags and sperm doner gags to even get to the plot — and feels longer than it is because you’re not really laughing. A lot of the humor is Family Guy-style “hey remember when we did something completely unrelated” gags that Ted and A Million Ways to Die in the West largely stayed away from, and it’s just as ineffective and unwieldy on the big screen as one would think.
Though Ted was met with critical and commercial enthusiasm, A Million Ways to Die in the West underperformed and this movie has opened in third place to just $33.5 million. It seems like audiences have anticipated cartoonish drivel from MacFarlane’s films even before they descended into it. The sequel was supposed to save his directorial career, but this weak performance might end it instead.
Even worse are the extended dialogue scenes, which are all in plane-jane boring shot reverse-shot, forcing themselves to rely completely on the not-funny-enough dialogue to make the scene work. Film is a visual medium, and sequences where the visuals are just filler almost never work. None of the ones here do.
The movie also misses a lot of opportunities for recall humor, though it pays off just as many. The most prominent is Jackson. Her middle initial is L, making her Sam L. Jackson, something Ted makes fun of her for in the first scene and prominently in the trailers. But without a cameo from the real Samuel L. Jackson, the joke is incomplete.
Watching this on opening weekend after a full week of Confederate flag and gay rights shenanigans in the news is a surreal experience. Ted at several times compares his situation and is compared to African American and LGBT suffrage, and he’s not wrong, but it’s tough to even broach that topic in a raunchy comedy without trivializing the real-world trials it mirrors.
Worse, the obvious comparisons just sort of hang there. They don’t attack it with the deliberately tasteless racial and sexual skewering that would have given Ted 2 some of the edge it lacks, and also would have fit wonderfully within its style and is something MacFarlane has pulled off before, but the movie also doesn’t push any kind of equality message. All that happens is, in some scenes, characters acknowledge Ted is going through injustices that African Americans and LGBTs can sympathize with, then take us back to our regularly scheduled programming.
Leopold Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, licensed massage therapist and journalism student at the University of North Texas. Happy gay week, everyone! I’ve had a change of heart about reader input. It is now welcomed and encouraged. Like Reel Entropy on Facebook, follow it on Twitter @reelentropy, and shoot questions to reelentropy@.