Mark Wahlberg is often the best thing about the movies he’s in, which says more about the kind of movies he’s in than it says about Marky Mark. He’s an actor who’s at his best playing decent guys being messed about by forces they can’t even understand, something which works largely because Marky Mark is pretty convincing as a guy who struggles to understand what’s going on around him. Along with Mila Kunis, he was pretty much the secret weapon in Ted, which badly needed a couple of decent people to take the sour taste out of Seth McFarlane’s approach to comedy.
One sequel later, and that’s all gone; Mila Kunis couldn’t come out to play and had to be written out of the script, and Wahlberg’s struggling to make his character likeable. Too much of Ted’s bad influence and an actor honestly trying to play a guy whose marriage breakup has left him sour and wary. Easily the hardest thing to believe in the movie is that every hot chick half his age is looking for his phone number; a talking teddy bear is somehow easier to buy. Ted remains an asshole, albeit an intermittently funny one; welcome to the Seth McFarlane effect, where shocking jokes swerve into each other to occasionally hilarious and/or heartwarming effect (there’s a Kardashian joke which is horrible and yet forced a laugh out of everyone in the audience). The other weird thing about McFarlane is how many cameos he can drag into a movie. There’s a three minute bit with Liam Neeson buying breakfast cereal which is surreal, hilarious and perfectly pitched to rip the piss out of the last ten Neeson movies. It’s tempting to ask how the whole movie can’t be that funny, but nothing could be consistently that funny. Comedy doesn’t work that way. Like a lot of comedy movies I’ve been watching lately, there’s half an hour of good stuff bravely trying to prop up another hour of filler and misfires; the question is always whether the good stuff is good enough to wait for.
On balance, not really. The first movie is better, and the second one doesn’t add anything you really need - if anything, it makes you more likely to dislike the characters you kind of liked in the first one. And yet, in one way you’d probably need to watch it more than once just to parse out all the connections and callouts to other work. There’s a ninety second shot of a marijuana farm which gets in references to both Jurassic Park and Contact, and I don’t even know what else I might have missed. And there’s a throwaway reaction shot of Amanda Seyfried looking just like Gollum which I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to unsee. Art is making you see the things which you wouldn’t have seen for yourself, so in that narrow sense, McFarlane is an artist.