Ted 2 dares to ask the question: Are teddy bears people too? In the broadest sense of the term, the sequel commits to the high concept idea of seeking civil rights, and then buries it in an overlong series of hit or miss skits, crude jokes, sight gags, and nerdtastic pop culture references you may find in any given episode of (an FCC free) Family Guy. Not that this should be at all surprising coming from the creator of Fox’s raunchy animated sitcom.
MacFarlane’s 2012 feature film debut Ted, the smash hit comedy about a potty mouthed talking teddy bear and his lifelong human friend, defied the odds and went on to become the highest grossing R-rated comedy of all time. MacFarlane successfully upped the ante and shock factor in going from television to the big screen and proved himself a worthy gamble for Universal Pictures. Plus let’s give credit where due credit is due, the film was damn funny. It’s unfortunate this sequel simply tows the line and doesn’t take the series to new highs.
Ted 2 picks up several years later, and things have changed for out two favorite Beantown thunder buddies. John (Mark Wahlberg) is single and seriously down in the dumps. He has divorced Lori (Mila Kunis), who he married at the end of the first film and can barely identify a girl whose interested in him. Ted is on cloud nine in love and its his turn to tie the knot with his grocery store co-worker girlfriend Tami-Lynne (in a ceremony officiated by none other than Sam J. Jones himself of course).
A year into marriage however, its far from bliss for Ted and Tami. They decide the only logical solution for their domestic woes is to start a family. The adoption application process puts Ted on the government’s radar, and he is declared a piece of property, not a person. With no legal identity, Ted loses his job, credit cards, sees his marriage annulled and certainly cannot secure custody of an adopted child.
Ted and John enlist the help of Amanda Seyfried’s newbie legal eagle named Sam(antha) L. Jackson to fight for his rights for person hood. Turns out Sam enjoys a good bong hit as much as Ted as John do, even in the work place, so its an instant match made in Heaven.
It’s on the journey to Ted’s day in civil rights court where the film starts to lose focus and takes too many side steps into skits that really start to add up. The story hits some speed bumps with B and C material that easily could have been excised in the edit room or even one last script revision. When the film actually addresses the serious concept of Ted’s pursuit of person hood, it actually treats it as a bare plot device and wisely never delves too deep into Grisham worthy courtroom drama.
An intricate unnecessary dark subplot involving Giovanni Ribisi (returning as the creepy Donny), has him employed as a janitor at Hasbro who once again plots to kidnap Ted. This time around he intends to cut him open to see what makes the magical bear tick so Hasbro can mass produce the living plush toy. This leads to a third act sequence at New York Comic Con and a cosplay battle royal on the convention floor whose various participants will thrill only those who have attended a presentation in Hall H. While it all ultimately adds to the ramifications of Ted’s re-classification as property, the signature MacFarlane off the track side skits easily add over 20 minutes to the film’s near two hour running time.
Does Ted 2 provide laughs? Absolutely. Make no mistake there’s plenty to enjoy for fans of the first film. Throw in a rousing old hollywood opening dance number, vulgar jokes, profane language, pop culture homages, and surprise guest appearances, there is no way you will leave the theater feeling short changed.
A scene of shouting out “sad suggestions” at an improv night sets the high bar for the dark side of the film’s humor as much as a trip to a fertility clinic pushes the boundaries for gross out material. Scenes with celebrity cameos from Tom Brady and Liam Neeson are downright hilarious, but unfortunately add to the film’s pacing woes. While a trip to a fertilization clinic provieds the film with a jaw dropping gross sight gag, ultimately it and several other scenes don’t push the story forward. The generous amount of side steps noticeably detract from getting Ted to his day in court to fight for his human rights.
Ted himself is a wonder to behold on the big screen. The CGI effects are so good at no point do you ever doubt you’re looking at a tangible fluffy living teddy bear that may as well have been there on set acting alongside the cast. MacFarlane’s voice deserves as much credit to giving the foul mouthed plushy his soul as the FX artists. Ted’s crude clueless charm owes much to the director/screenwriter/actor’s character talents behind the mic, even if you have to get past he sounds like if Peter Griffen was from Boston.
The chemistry between two thunder buddies provides the heart of the movie. Wahlberg is effective in his comedy zone here, especially considering he’s acting opposite a non-existent bear. There is seldom a moment when it doesn’t look like the cast is having an absolute blast making the movie. Seyfried is especially loose and fun in the film, and even gets to belt out a song by a campfire.
There are more than enough worthwhile moments for MacFarlane fans to enjoy. It’s unfortunate the script plays out like it skipped the final revision to eliminate some of the weaker bits, and it ultimately drags to the finish line. The woes that haunted MacFarlane’s 2014 major misfire A Million Ways To Die In The West seemed to have carried over to Ted 2. What works for a brisk 22 minutes on TV doesn’t mean the formula works for two hours, and in this instance a tight 90 minute running time with more bang for your buck is what this sequel ultimately needed.
Ted 2 hits theaters on June 22nd.
REVIEW RATING: ★★★★★
Director: Seth MacFarlane
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Amanda Seyfried, Seth MacFarlane, Jessica Barth, Giovanni Ribisi, Morgan Freeman
Screenwriters: Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, Wellesley Wild
Studio: Universal Pictures
Running Time: 115 minutes