Hollywood comedies have been caught in a weird, unfunny, dimwitted limbo for quite some time, so I have no problem tipping my cap Seth MacFarlane’s direction for trying something different. Ted, MacFarlane’s foul-mouthed teddy bear, may spew the same offensive, off-color, sexually-charged humor that most R-rated characters do these days, except he’s a talking snuggle companion with human friends. As such, they might be the same old jokes, but coming from a cuddly children’s toy, there’s an (un)expectedly amusing charisma emitted from Ted.
Yes, I enjoy Ted, and I can’t blame MacFarlane for giving his thunder buddy another cinematic go-around, even though comedic sequels have been bombing hard these days (Dumb And Dumber To, Hot Tub Time Machine 2). But MacFarlane has a fearless voice, plenty to say about the civil rights battles being waged across America, and the perfect means of commenting on our basic human rights. Honestly, who’s more equipped to fight the power than Ted?! Well, actually, after watching Ted 2, I can think of many more worthy subjects – but at least there are plenty of dick jokes to go around!
MacFarlane is back as the voice of Ted, the stuffed-animal-come-to-life and newlywed husband of grocery store hottie, Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth). After the two love-birds hit a rough patch in their marriage, Ted suggests having a baby to save their failing relationship. But after a series of unfortunate events stem from Ted’s inability to impregnate Tami-Lynn, he’s legally ruled as property by a Massachusetts court. Distraught and depressed, Ted teams up with his best bud John (Mark Wahlberg) and a young lawyer named Samantha (Amanda Seyfried) to overturn the law’s unjust ruling. Ted sets out to prove that there’s no difference between squishy organs or polyester filling, because it’s our emotional capacity that makes us human – plus he smokes a lot of weed and gets drunk along the way. Win, win!
I feel a bit redundant even writing this review, because the same phrases have been used to describe MacFarlane’s material ever since the first season of Family Guy aired. Ted’s antics revolve around the same dirty formula that has divided audiences through MacFarlane’s boundless obscenities, a vast spectrum of potty humor and totally-un-PC references, but MacFarlane lovers are going to be snuggling up to Ted 2 with absolutely zero hesitation. It’s more of the same – phallic-shaped bongs, references to Ferguson, and relentless gender jokes teetering on a VERY thin line between cheeky and tasteless. But it’s as if MacFarlane can get away with more because each line comes from a fuzzy bear who sounds conspicuously like Peter Griffin, and MacFarlane beats this privilege into an unrecognizable pulp.
Yet, despite MacFarlane’s best efforts, Ted 2 suffers from a distracting case of sequelitis, along with a more heavy-handed Family Guy sense of absurdity. Don’t get me wrong – Ted and John’s coke-fueled party with Flash Gordon himself is pretty freakin’ absurd, but MacFarlane opts for more left-field gags this time around. In cartoon form, it’s easy to get away with these random quick-cuts and non sequiturs, but MacFarlane struggles to insert scenes that have absolutely no bearing on Ted’s conflict. There’s a curious gag involving an ass-kicker cameo who has a few questions before buying a box of Trix cereal, and while Ted’s reaction gets a chuckle, these useless moments build up over time, unnecessarily ballooning Ted 2 into a two-hour mixed-bag of hit and miss verbal atrocities.
Other symptoms of sequelitis include a recurring usage of past characters – such as Giovanni Ribisi’s lunatic villain, Donny – in order to keep an air of familiarity. Sam L. Jones reprising his cameo role to act as Ted’s wedding priest is one thing, and Patrick Warburton’s overly-macho homosexual (Guy) scores some mesmerizing exchanges with a boyfriend played by Michael Dorn (Rick), but Ribisi’s inclusion reeks of a certain staleness. Even the bond between Wahlberg and his fluffy friend doesn’t carry the same lifelike spark, and the inclusion of Seyfried’s new love interest (replacing Mila Kunis) lacks a mirroring chemistry. Ted 2 feels like it’s pieced together with make-shift parts after the original workings went missing, with MacFarlane praying his quick-fixes can hold for two more hours.
MacFarlane’s sense of pop-culture geekery is the one thing that’s consistently dependable, from clever little digs about Seyfried’s “Gollum eyes” to a cameo from a foam Toxic Avenger head, which makes Ted’s New York Comic Con escape scene all sorts of self-referential fun. But the fandom convention locale also leads to Guy and Rick’s hate-filled douchebaggery while pushing around nerds like middle school bullies, which doesn’t get a single laugh besides each being dressed as fictional characters they’d previously made famous. Except Warburton’s donning of his Tick suit didn’t get a single guffaw from my crowd, and my inner-child died a bit.
MacFarlane is an intelligent and creative man. I know all the masturbation quips and stoner comedy might not speak to that claim, but when analyzing the numerous layers of Ted 2, you’ll realize that there’s more to this buddy comedy than Bud Light, three-titted women and Patrick Stewart’s narration. John and Ted follow a very convoluted and goofy plot, but Ted 2 is just as much a buddy comedy satire as it is a straight narrative, and we even get a few jabs thrown at repetitive romantic comedies. It’s just an unfortunate outcome that MacFarlane doesn’t find the same whimsical magic, because Ted is a character I want to love – it’s just a lot harder to do so this time around.
The Thunder Buddies are back, but despite MacFarlane's social satire, Ted 2 suffers from an overbloated sense of sequelitis that finds less magic in its foul-mouthed protagonist bear.