At the end of 2013’s Ted, Bostonian pothead and all-round, okay kinda guy, John (Mark Wahlberg) married his girlfriend, Lori (Mila Kunis) while his walking, talking teddy bear, Ted (voiced incredibly well by writer/director Seth McFarlane) and Ted’s unlikely though gorgeous trailer-park girlfriend, Tami-Lyn (Jessica Barth) looked on. It’s two years later, and in the sequel Ted 2 things have changed. John and Lori divorced six months earlier and Ted and Tami-Lyn are now at the altar. “I’m going fifty shades of bear on you,” declares Ted following the service.
Like its original, this 2015 foul-mouthed, pot-smoking sequel bounces wildly from joke to joke, hitting some, missing more. When the setup fails and the joke bombs, which they often do, then it fails miserably. But when it hits the target, crude or otherwise, which it occasionally does, then Ted 2 delivers big laughs. Its inconsistencies are frustrating to say the least, but when it’s funny, it’s really laugh-out-loud funny.
With John living a sad-sack life as a bachelor with only his files of porn on his laptop to keep him warm, Ted and his bride are also having a tough time. There’s not enough money in the account to pay for Tami-Lyn’s discount shopping sprees, and the two argue, and argue. With a marriage between babe and bear almost on the rocks, Ted hits on the perfect marriage-saving idea: why don’t they have a baby?
Because of Ted’s obvious lack of an appendage issue, artificial insemination is the way to go, so steps are taken to find the right donor. After a funny incident with footballer Tom Brady involving an attempt to secure some unsolicited sperm while he’s asleep – “You’re not a cheater,” Ted tells Brady as he throws them out of his house, “Your balls are perfect” – Ted and Tami-Lyn are forced to look at adoption. But there’s an issue. In the eyes of the law, Ted is not a person, he’s property, and the state won’t allow an adoption of a human child by a teddy bear. “I don’t understand,” Ted exclaims as he takes another hit of late night weed, “We’d make great parents.”
But that’s only the beginning of Ted’s problems. After the adoption attempt, now that the law is aware of Ted’s existence, the state not only strips the bear of his ability to adopt, it also removes his credit cards, his bank account, gets him fired from his supermarket check-out job, and annuls the marriage. Ted is stripped of everything. He’s simply property. “It’s what this country does,” Ted angrily complains. “It puts people into different groups and makes them watch Tyler Perry.” Not only that, but creepy bad guy from the first film, Donny (Giovanni Ribisi) is still pursuing Ted and intends to take him apart to find out what makes him work.
Like most sequels, Ted 2 suffers from a lack of freshness. Famous screenwriter William Goldman once called sequels Whore Movies. That might seem blunt, but the point is important. The original was developed through creativity; the sequel, that’s for the money. Ted’s creativity scored high in the original; the sequel, way less so. That’s not to say that making a box-office profit was never the intention of the original; of course it was, that’s what the biz in showbiz is all about. But it was based on a new, creative idea that worked, a gamble that paid off. With the sequel, the idea is already established, the risk factor of not knowing whether an audience would even buy an adult talking teddy is gone, so the writers had to come up with more of the same involving characters already known. Forget all that stuff about there’s still more story to tell. It’s a sequel riding on the success of the first. That’s all.
Having said that, the idea of a pot-smoking, foul-mouthed teddy bear somehow never grows old. The bear remains truly funny, and MacFarlane’s voicing and punchy delivery is outstanding, even when it’s the center of an outrageously idiotic plot as it is here. What’s truly amazing is the chemistry between a special effect and Mark Wahlberg; it’s really there, and both the bickering and the playful camaraderie between the bear and his buddy are for real. You know that the talking teddy is CGI but there’s never a moment when you don’t fully embrace the fantasy without question, and when you think about, sequel or not, that’s a remarkable cinematic achievement.
MacFarlane’s uneven rhythm of hits and misses, setups that fail and zingers that fly is reminiscent of the same pacing used in his Family Guy TV series. The trip to the sperm donor bank resulting with shelves of bottled samples spilling over Wahlberg will have you squirming, the CNN, FOX Cable News and SNL sendups are satirically accurate, the joke about Sam L. Jackson playing every black character in every movie ever made is all the funnier when Morgan Freeman as a civil rights lawyer turns up, and the constant negative references to the level of education taught at Arizona State University is a hoot. “You went to Arizona State?” asks Ted of his new and unsuccessful lawyer, Amanda Seyfried. “No wonder we lost the case.”
Particularly good are the spectacular opening credits illustrating MacFarlane’s obvious love of Hollywood musicals; Ted is joined by a cast of about a hundred tap dancers in top hat and tails on a giant wedding cake in a nod to the black and white MGM musicals of Busby Berkeley, but being shot widescreen and in color it comes by way of Ken Russell’s The Boyfriend. Knowing MacFarlane’s eagerness to include at least one song and dance number in his films – here we have two musical sequences; Amanda Seyfried’s acoustic ballad Mean Ol’ Moon sung around a marijuana field campfire is as pleasant as the scene is funny – you can’t help wondering if he might eventually do what the South Park guys did, turn his attention to a musical. We already know he can sing.
Sometimes sweet, sometimes funny, often times mean and always crude, Ted 2 isn’t half as much fun as the first, but there’s no denying the comical allure of the bear. Even in a film as low-brow from the get go as this, Ted is Seth MacFarlane’s best big screen creation and the bear itself is consistently funny, but for crying out loud, don’t do what several audience members did at the screening and take the kids to this hard core, R rated comedy just because it stars a cute looking, talking teddy bear. Trying to explain to younger members why Ted was sucking on an erect penis shaped bong and enjoying it will make for one tough conversation in the car driving home.
MPAA Rating: R Length: 115 Minutes Overall Rating: 6 (out of 10)