Director: Seth MacFarlane
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Amanda Seyfried, Jessica Barth, Giovanni Ribisi, Morgan Freeman, Sam J. Jones, Patrick Warburton, Michael Dorn, Bill Smitrovich, John Slattery
MPAA Rating: (for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, and some drug use)
Running Time: 1:55
Release Date: 6/26/15
Review by Mark Dujsik | June 25, 2015
The role of the foul-mouthed, pot-smoking, alcohol-chugging partier of a living teddy bear is somehow both increased and diminished in Ted 2. In the original film, Ted (voice of co-writer/director Seth MacFarlane) was more or less a supporting player—a walking, talking id come to life in the form of a child's plaything, thanks to the desperate wish of a lonely child. That film had a mature understanding of its relationships, which was quite a surprise if one considered how immature the overwhelming majority of the film's humor was. It was genuinely funny and unexpectedly touching in spots.
Here, Ted's story is the main thrust of the movie, as the living teddy bear fights for his personhood to be recognized by the government. A smarter movie would use this notion to comment on obvious political debates of our time. MacFarlane and co-screenwriters Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild clearly know that there's a tinderbox of political subtext just beneath the surface of this story of a bear whose adoption application is rejected due to his nature and whose marriage is nullified by the state because it's declared unnatural. Why else would Ted say that he finally understands the fight for marriage equality?
Of course, he says he finally understands what "they" are going through, although replace "they" with a homophobic slur. He immediately apologizes for the use of that insult and replaces it with another.
That's our Ted. We know this by now, so it's not much of a shock that he would purport to be sympathetic to a group of people while showing how unsympathetic he actually is toward them (Then again, the entire concept of using such disparaging terms simply to shock or offend has become so boringly obvious that it has ceased to be shocking or offensive). Ted's character is, after all, based on the dichotomy of the outward appearance of a cute, huggable toy and the behavior of a maladjusted adult with a penchant for using certain four-letter words. Political and cultural enlightenment do not suit Ted. That's fine.
The movie, though, finds itself in a strange place in tying Ted's legal fight to similar real-world ones. Through the suggestion, MacFarlane and company want to take advantage of the weight of issues of race, sexual orientation, and other identity issues. They also don't want to take a stand one way or another (perhaps for fear of shocking or offending those who would rather such things have no part in a movie about a cursing, drinking, and marijuana-puffing teddy bear). It's more of a pragmatically fainthearted maneuver than a cynical or hypocritical one, but curiously enough, it leaves the movie in a rather innocuous mode.
That works just fine in the early parts of the movie, which are more focused in the realm in which MacFarlane can excel: plotless pieces of hit-or-miss non sequitur humor. Ted and his new wife Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth) get into a domestic squabble that starts to involve their neighbors. There's a long riff about Ted's mortification at his heartbroken best friend John's (Mark Wahlberg) extensive and diverse pornography collection. A few random cameos are amusing (Tom Brady as Ted's second choice to be a sperm donor, resulting in an elaborate plan to clandestinely obtain his seed) or very funny (Liam Neeson as a customer at the grocery store where Ted works questioning whether a cereal's slogan is enforced by law).
The reason the first act works is because it understands that there's plenty of humor to be mined from the simple conceit of observing the friendship between a man and a conscious teddy bear and imagining Ted's daily life. It's free of any real form, simply going for laughs wherever the screenwriters think they could be. That it remains funny even after an entire movie based around a similar premise is a pleasant surprise.
Then the actual plot begins as Ted's legal status is called into question, forcing him to seek legal counsel in the form of Samantha (Amanda Seyfried), a first-time attorney who smokes pot as frequently as Ted and John but who doesn't have anywhere near the same level of pop-culture knowledge as the duo (which means she doesn't get about three-quarters of their jokes). This isn't to say the movie becomes too plot-heavy, although the addition of a sinister scheme by a toy company to dissect Ted and mass produce other sentient teddy bears stops the movie in its tracks (Giovanni Ribisi returns as the creepy Donny, who comes up with the plan).
Whatever spark the movie has in its early section dissipates, though. Perhaps it's on account of the unfulfilled promise of social commentary or satire. Perhaps it's because Samantha is too attuned to Ted and John's mindset to be much of a foil for them. Perhaps the weight of the plot—unsubstantial as it may seem—is simply too much for MacFarlane's aim of frequent and random jokes.
Maybe it's all of these and more. There's a tangible feeling of the filmmakers straining for some kind of emotional payoff to Ted's plight and the central friendship. Worse, Ted 2 feels as if it's scraping for jokes, so the movie's primary problem might simply be that the material has run its natural course.
Copyright © 2015 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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