Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Bears Repeating

I'm really not sure how well I remember Seth MacFarlane's comedy Ted. I say that because the whole time I was watching Ted 2, I was thinking "this is alright, but not as good as the first one"... only to place the sequel not far behind the original when I added it to my Flickchart.

Where I remember the first Ted as chasing laughs almost exclusively, Ted 2 feels in some ways like MacFarlane's attempt to write a Star Trek episode. Though jokes are still king, there's an attempt at making a socio-political point by way of story metaphor: this movie embroils the talking teddy bear in the U.S. legal system, as he seeks to secure equal rights as a person. I'm pretty sure that message is too lofty to actually make any kind of impact whatsoever in such slapstick surroundings, but it is there.

One area in which I'm probably misremembering the first Ted is in how much more Ted 2 feels to me like a live action Family Guy episode. Ted 2 is loaded with "cutaway gags." They don't literally interrupt scenes as they do on the cartoon, but there are numerous scenes that operate solely as improv-style sketches, not furthering the plot in any way. Still other scenes conclude with tacked-on dialogue to set up more sketch scenes to follow. (One scene is even about literally crashing an improv troupe's performance.) That's not to say these flights of fancy aren't sometimes funny. Liam Neeson bringing his full "Taken" schtick to a conversation about breakfast cereal is somehow hilarious. An extended riff on legal terms follows the classic joke model of beating a dead horse so long that it's not funny... and then continuing until it becomes funny again.

Still, Ted 2 is a very uneven movie. A lengthy campfire singalong scene grinds the proceedings to a halt. The avalanche of jokes that appear when the plot takes the characters to New York Comic Con is a riot. The small role for Mad Men's John Slattery is a waste. A similarly tiny role for Morgan Freeman is pretty great. There's probably a tight, hysterical 90 minute movie in here somewhere... but the actual run time is just shy of two hours.

I'd give Ted 2 a B-. It's no masterpiece, but then, neither was the original. If you enjoyed the first, you'll probably feel the same way about the second.

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