'Ted 2': Why the humor doesn't work for the comedy sequel

Though all agreed it was offensive, some critics were won over by the comedy in Seth MacFarlane's comedy 'Ted,' in part because of the believable and loving relationships between the main characters. But in the sequel 'Ted 2,' critics are calling the humor 'cruel.'

Universal Pictures/AP
'Ted 2' stars Mark Wahlberg (l.) and Amanda Seyfried (r.).

The upcoming release of the film “Ted 2” has many critics calling the movie's humor mean-spirited and missing the sentimental relationships that were in the first movie.

Seth MacFarlane, the director, co-writer, and star (via voice) of the “Ted” films, is no stranger to controversy. His series “Family Guy,” which airs on Fox, has long alienated some viewers with its politically incorrect jokes and he angered some viewers in 2013 when he hosted the Oscars. Cracks about female nudity in films and others were ill-received, with Monitor writer Gloria Goodale noting that “MacFarlane… has been criticized for making sexist, racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic jokes (does this miss any groups?) as well as general bad taste.” 

MacFarlane’s 2012 film “Ted” was a box office hit, so a sequel was probably inevitable, and according to early reviews (“Ted 2” hits theaters on June 26), the new film is just as full of envelope-pushing humor as the first movie.

There are some who will always be turned off by edgy humor, but others have noted that while much of the humor was offensive in the first movie, it was mitigated by the relationships between the stuffed bear Ted and his friend John (Mark Wahlberg) and between John and his girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis). Ty Burr of the Boston Globe called the film “mostly hilarious [and] surprisingly sentimental… The movie works not because the gross-out jokes are funny (MacFarlane bats about 2 out of 3) but because the two central relationships, between John and Kunis’s tough, tender Lori and between John and Ted, feel real – or real enough.” The Hollywood Reporter writer Todd McCarthy agreed, calling the film “raucously funny” and writing that “the relationship between John and Lori feels genuine and strong enough to make you root for it to work out,” while Los Angeles Times writer Betsy Sharkey notes that the three players make up “the warm and fuzzy love triangle at the center of the raucous rudeness… While nothing is sacred, the sacrilege comes with just enough sweetness to offset the salt.” 

But with this sequel, that sweetness seems to be gone (possibly partly caused by Kunis’s departure). Chicago Sun-Times writer Richard Roeper writes of the new movie, “The first time Ted makes a joke about Amanda Seyfried’s character and her big eyes, it’s startling and hilarious. The second time, it’s just flat and unfunny. The third time, Ted just comes across as cruel,” while Dan Callahan of TheWrap wrote that “bad taste needs to be more honest and more all-inclusive if it’s to make a lasting impression, and MacFarlane’s bad taste here is both too wishy-washy and too knee-jerk cruel to really make any impact.” New York Daily News writer Jacob Hall agreed, writing of the film, "Its penchant for casual cruelty masks a hollow soul."

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