Ted’s re­turn a bit hard to bear

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film Reviews - Stephen Romei

Ted 2 (MA15+) Na­tional re­lease

Here’s an in­ter­est­ing factoid about ac­tor Mark Wahlberg: in his near 40-film ca­reer he has not made a se­quel — un­til now. Asked about that in a re­cent in­ter­view he said, “For me, the rule is that if you can make it bet­ter than the first, then it’s worth do­ing.’’ On the ev­i­dence of he would be ad­vised to stick to his no-se­quels in­stinct.

The idea be­hind Ted had charm. A 10-yearold boy wishes his teddy bear to life. Fast for­ward 20 years and the public nov­elty of a sen­tient stuffed toy has worn off so Ted lives in rel­a­tive anonymity with the grown but emo­tion­ally ado­les­cent John (Wahlberg).

They are foul-mouthed, pot-smok­ing slack­ers, stuck to the couch in their Bos­ton flat, in­ter­ested in low en­ter­tain­ment and high times. The fea­ture film di­rec­to­rial de­but of Fam­ily Guy cre­ator Seth MacFar­lane (who voices Ted), the 2012 film was a smash hit, with box of­fice re­turns of ten­fold its $US50 mil­lion bud­get.

The idea be­hind MacFar­lane’s se­quel is top­i­cal — how do we de­fine per­son­hood? — and it’s not hard to see why it ap­pealed to Wahlberg, who was ex­cel­lent in Tim Bur­ton’s 2001 re­make of The Planet of the Apes. But he is let down by a hit-and-miss script that re­lies too much on cru­dity and pro­fan­ity for its laughs and a bit­sand-pieces plot that ends up feel­ing like a se­ries of stitched to­gether tele­vi­sion com­edy sketches.

Some of these vi­gnettes are gen­uinely funny, such as when John and Ted riff on what the F stands for in F. Scott Fitzger­ald (no prizes for guess­ing what they think), or in an early scene when hard man Liam Nee­son (one of sev­eral star cameos) buys a box of break­fast ce­real at the su­per­mar­ket where Ted works the check­out. “If I pur­chase this Trix,’’ he says in Taken mode, “there will be no prob­lem?”

But too of­ten the scenes seem to ex­ist for no good rea­son, such as a long and te­dious fight se­quence at a comic-book con­ven­tion. To­wards the end of this over­long film, I found my­self think­ing back to that ter­rific Nee­son bit as though it hap­pened in another life­time.

There are lots of ref­er­ences to other films and film char­ac­ters, but it’s as though MacFar- lane thinks mak­ing the al­lu­sion is enough, that au­di­ences will laugh at mere recog­ni­tion, rather than be­cause some­thing clever or funny is go­ing on. Here’s an ex­am­ple, and it may be a good guide to whether MacFar­lane’s hu­mour is for you: there’s an es­capade in­volv­ing Amer­i­can football star Tom Brady in which Ted turns up kit­ted out in a Padding­ton Bear yel­low rain­coat and hat. The rea­son: he doesn’t want Brady’s sperm all over his fur.

Re­pro­duc­tion is cen­tral to Ted 2. In a pre-ti­tle se­quence Ted mar­ries Tami-Lynn (Jes­sica Barth), his girl­friend from the pre­vi­ous film. We also learn that John is un­hap­pily di­vorced.

A year later, Ted and Tami-Lynn’s mar­riage is on the rocks. The so­lu­tion is to have a baby, but Ted’s penis-less state presents a chal­lenge. There’s a search for a sperm donor (which in­cludes a slap­stick scene in a sperm bank (which I had to look away from) and there are in­quiries made about adop­tion.

This quest for par­ent­hood has the un­ex­pec-

Ted 2 ted con­se­quence of draw­ing at­ten­tion to Ted’s le­gal sta­tus. Is he a per­son or is he prop­erty? It’s a ques­tion that leads to the courts, some heavy­handed com­par­isons with the slav­ery era and, in­evitably, to Mor­gan Free­man as a fa­mous civil rights lawyer, a role in which he is so dull it’s pos­si­ble he didn’t re­ceive the memo about this be­ing a com­edy.

Ted and John are helped by pretty young novice lawyer Sa­man­tha Jack­son, played by Amanda Seyfried, who was so good in Noah Baum­bach’s re­cent While We’re Young but here is the butt of Golem jokes about her large eyes (and, of course, John’s po­ten­tial love in­ter­est). There’s yet another sub­plot about mad Donny (Gio­vanni Ribisi) from the first film and his quest to own Ted.

It would be easy to say that if you liked Ted you will like Ted 2. By and large it’s more of the same. But some­times more of the same is too much. I found Ted mildly amus­ing but this se­quel mainly — for­give the pun — un­bear­able.

Mark Wahlberg, Ted (voiced by Seth MacFar­lane) and Amanda Seyfried in

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