Talk about played out: Last year when I saw Seth MacFarlane’s wretchedly unfunny “50 Million Ways to Die in the West,” I thought it was just a misstep for a guy who has made a fortune churning out some offensively funny material on shows like “Family Guy” and “American Dad”—shows I like. After sitting through “Ted 2,” I’m starting to think that MacFarlane is creatively bankrupt.
“Ted 2” is bad—terrible, even. I gave this film one star, and there’s only one reason for to it give it that much. There’s a scene about two-thirds into the movie—a throwaway gag where our characters decide to kill some time by going to an improv comedy show and yelling out wildly inappropriate suggestions.
“Can someone name a place?” asks the all-too eager performer.
“The offices of Charlie Hebdo,” replies Marky Mark Wahlberg.
“Name a celebrity”
This goes on for two side-splitting minutes. Every answer is horribly inappropriate, but damn funny. It’s the only scene in “Ted 2” that caused me to laugh. The rest of the movie is a painful affair of unfunny gags and a laborious attempt at capturing some of the manic fun of the original “Ted.”
Once again we get to hang out with the stuffed bear that came to life, Ted (MacFarlane), and his best buddy, Johnny (Mark Wahlberg). Ted drinks, does drugs and curses like a sailor. This all seemed funnier the first time around. The second installment feels a lot less funny and a lot less novel. Ted gets married but learns the government has decided he’s not a person but property. This leads to a court case where Ted has to defend his existence and prove he has a soul. Ted enlists the aid of a comely young lawyer, Sam (Amanda Seyfried), to take his case to court.
The trial felt almost too “on the nose” because it seemed to sum up my feelings about the movie, as well as the characters. MacFarlane has made a career of creating bumbling, obnoxious leading men. Ted and Johnny are no different than Peter Griffin from “Family Guy” or Stan Smith from “American Dad.” The cadence of the comedy, the literal voice of the character, it’s all been done. “Ted 2” is one of those sequels that feels pointless because it covers the exact same territory of the original.
Comedy sequels are a difficult proposition. “Ted 2” is no different than misfires like “Ghostbusters 2,” “Caddyshack 2,” or “Another Stakeout.” The main difference is that Ted is such an obnoxious character I realized how much better he works in small doses. However, there are no small doses in “Ted 2.” Everything is bigger, the jokes are more foul, and the cutaway gags aren’t all that funny.
It’s that weird scenario where someone is doing the exact same thing over and over again with diminishing results—like a favorite band who still sounds the same 10 years later and hasn’t evolved as artists. MacFarlane is still the guy making the crude jokes and trying way too hard to be offensive. As a comedic voice, he has not grown. If anything, he’s regressed.
The movies look great—well shot and edited, crammed with great talent that by all logic should elevate the proceedings. Yet, all the polish in the world can’t save something this unfunny. Cameos from high-end talent like Morgan Freeman and Liam Neeson just contribute to an uneasy feeling of wondering who on Earth talked them into this. Did anyone read a script? Was there a script?
It reminded me of the recent “Entourage” movie, which was filled with endless douchebaggery and celebrity cameos. And like “Entourage,” “Ted 2” is no cause for celebration. It’s like watching someone tirelessly beating a horse to death, only stopping to look up to the audience, gasping for a breath while covered in blood, and ask, “Is this working?”
The lesson we’ve all learned is this: You can only push the boundaries of good taste for so long before you run out of good material. Being offensive isn’t a crime. Being unfunny, that is.