“Life has changed drastically for thunder buddies John (Mark Wahlberg), now a bachelor, and best pal Ted (Seth MacFarlane), now married to the woman (Jessica Barth) of his dreams. Problems arise when the couple decide to adopt a child, but the law declares Ted to be property and not a person. Angry and dejected, the lovably foulmouthed teddy bear must now seek legal help from a young lawyer (Amanda Seyfried) and a legendary, civil-rights attorney (Morgan Freeman) to get the justice he deserves.”
(Synopsis by Universal Studios)
*Brrrrrrrrring* … *Brrrrrrrring* – *click* “Hello?”
“Hi there, editor? This is Cliff Bugle. I’m the one who’s supposed to write the review of ‘Ted 2’ for the website.”
“Oh, yes. What can I do for you?”
“Well sir, I was wondering if I could phone this one in. The movie was definitely funny, but I’m frankly having a heck of a time writing about it as if it’s any different from the first one.”
“You don’t say. Are you sure there is nothing distinguishing about it?”
“Yes, unfortunately. There is a bold-faced yet unrefined allegory about civil rights, and there are a number of new cameos by celebrities like Jay Leno and Liam Neeson, but otherwise it’s just more of the same – lots of cursing, smoking, pop culture references, and debauchery.”
“I’m afraid you’re just going to have to find some way to make your review interesting, Cliff. You have an obligation to fulfill.”
“(Sigh) I understand. I’ll be sure to keep you updated.”
Most of you reading this know by now whether they’re a fan of Seth MacFarlane’s blue brand of comedy. So there is nothing I can say or do here to convince you to think one way or the other about it. Those who enjoyed the first “Ted” back in 2012, as I did, had every reason to feel encouraged when they first heard that a sequel would be coming out this summer. If you’re someone who already finds him/herself occasionally watching an episode of “Family Guy,” or any other of his 99 copycat shows, by all means take a chance on “Ted 2.” Just like everything else on the docket this summer, save for independent hits like “DOPE” or “Ex Machina,” “Ted 2” is a known commodity that targeted viewers can feel comfortable investing their time and money in.
But isn’t this the problem? Let’s take a moment to look back on recent history. The first “Hangover” movie grabbed the nation by the funny bone and was praised for its daring antics and raunchy, R-rated humor. Then before we knew it we had two more “Hangover” films on our hands, each made with the singular goal of being wilder than its predecessor and identical in every other way. In truth, it’s hard to criticize a comedy franchise that ended up grossing more than $1.4 billion worldwide. Those kinds of numbers are unheard of with most films, much less comedies. But don’t be deceived.
Legendary pictures invested a mere $35 million in the first “Hangover” (which is peanuts considering how much of that was reserved for location costs and headliner Bradley Cooper). And to its credit it ended up grossing more than $277 million domestically. But as the studio kept increasing the budgets for the sequels ($80 million for “Hangover 2,” $103 million for “Hangover 3”) domestic grosses kept falling and falling. Anyone want to take a guess as to why?
Unique comedies like “Hangover” and “Ted” make splashes with American audiences because of their originality. Everyone knows how hard it is to write a good joke, and to write one that’s both funny and genuinely imaginative takes more talent than you or I can …well, imagine. When sequels to these kinds of movies are made, the novelty is gone. The joke becomes old. We may or may not still laugh, as the delivery of a joke is half the equation. But the punchline is the same. It doesn’t land as well as before, because it can’t. It’s just the nature of comedy.
“Ted 2” made $33.5 million during its opening weekend, which is more than respectable. If nothing else it provided a nice change of pace from the mega-blockbusters and kids movies. However, the first “Ted” made an even more impressive $54.4 million during its opening weekend, going on to gross almost $219 million domestically and $550 million worldwide. The bigger difference is this: The first “Ted” had a budget of $51 million. “Ted 2” had a budget of $68 million, and that’s not including the extra amounts used for more aggressive promotional campaigns.
Universal Pictures, like Legendary and Warner Bros., knew they were selling the same thing a second time, and if you’re like me this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But let’s say you’re someone who got swept up in the freshness of the first film despite not having a particularly strong devotion to Seth MacFarlane’s oeuvre. Chances are you aren’t too compelled to see the new sequel, and nor should you be. There’s nothing new for you here. Universal is relying on you to take the bait and assume you’ll have the same reaction to “Ted 2” that you did to “Ted.” Trust your comedic instinct, as well as the instincts and wisdom of those who currently make up the difference in the two films’ box office totals. Don’t bite.