When the powers that be are reviewing Mark Wahlberg's application to be pardoned for his 1988 assault conviction for going whupass on an Asian man, allegedly because the man committed the crime of being an Asian man, my recommendation is that they first look at Ted 2 for any evidence that Wahlberg is, in fact, contributing positively to society.
Ted 2 isn't a horribly offensive film. We're not talking about Human Centipede 3 here, but we are talking about the centipede-like continuation of writer/director Seth MacFarlane's insistence on building a career based upon over-the-top offensive humor spewed forth at the expense of anyone who doesn't look or act like MacFarlane.
Oh sure, it's all meant in fun. I get it. I really do. In fact, there were several times in Ted 2 that I guiltily laughed out loud as MacFarlane's talking teddy bear fought for personhood amidst a society that had declared him property precisely at the time he and "wife," Tammy (Jessica Barth), were trying to adopt a baby.
There's also no doubt that Ted 2 will restore some shine to MacFarlane's box-office cred that suffered after the godawful A Million Ways to Die in the West, though there's little denying that the film is both more of the same yet less of what actually made the original Ted work on some level.
The story is simple. Ted (still voiced by MacFarlane) has married Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth) while John's (Mark Wahlberg) marriage to Lori has collapsed and turned John into a porn-addicted recluse. Unfortunately, Ted and Tami-Lynn are finding out that marriage isn't just all fluffy teddy bears and magical moments. With their marriage on the rocks, the two decide that having a baby is the way to go except for that one rather obvious fact - Ted is, well, a teddy bear. When artificial insemination proves to not be an option, the two seek to adopt and the application triggers a systemic response that results in Ted's humanity being questioned.
What follows is Ted's quest to have his personhood affirmed, a quest supported by a newbie lawyer on her first case, Samantha (Amanda Seyfried), with a penchant for pot.
Of course, I could never figure out how a teddy bear already declared a "possession" would be allowed to even file a lawsuit against the Commonwealth of Massachusetts but, then again, what's the point of looking for logic in a Seth MacFarlane film?
MacFarlane once again directs and once again co-writes alongside Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild. Despite the consistency, much of Ted 2 feels too much like a money grab and not enough like a film where we needed to spend more time with these characters despite the pleasant addition of Seyfried's Samantha.
Sam Jones, aka Flash Gordon, is back with a bit that is far less inspired than his appearance in the first film. Tom Brady tosses in a rather deflating cameo, while Liam Neeson shows up doing his best impression of Liam Neeson. There are other cameos that work to varying degrees, while Giovanni Ribisi is back recreating a bit that didn't exactly work the first time around. Patrick Warburton is here seemingly with the sole purpose of smacking around nerds, while Morgan Freeman shows up to give the film its inevitable moral center.
Ted 2 flags greatly when it tries to stress the property angle of the story, an angle that would be misguided in nearly any comic writer's hands but is downright disastrous in MacFarlane's. On the flip side, there are several laugh out loud moments that don't sustain themselves as much as the laughs did in the original film yet they do keep the film from being a complete waste of time. As noted, the addition of Seyfried is a good thing. She exudes a charm and energy that gets Ted 2 even in its silliest moments, while she also serves up an emotional center that largely evaded the awkwardly uncomfortable coupling of Kunis and Wahlberg that is fortunately non-existent here.
If you can take it for what it is, an unnecessary retread with a few decent laughs and ample doses of both mean-spirited humor and liberal high-moralizing, Ted 2 may very well give you enough entertainment value to justify a trip to the multiplex. It's likely inevitable that the film would feel less fresh and original the second time around, though it's hard not to be disappointed with a film centered around a naughty talking bear that still manages to feel so "been there, seen that."
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic