Ted 2 unites Mark Wahlberg’s insecure wallflower character (it’s called acting, folks) with the chubby little cubby all stuffed with fluff and racial, sexual, scatological and ’80s-reference insults voiced, with movie-saving acumen, by co-writer and director Seth MacFarlane.
“Saving” is relative. Madly uneven, more so than the mediocre 2012 hit that made half a billion worldwide, this one’s an easy predictive call. If you got your laughs out of Ted, you’ll likely come crawling back for Ted 2. It’s not the same film, but it’s same-adjacent.
Ted was rated R for “crude and sexual content, pervasive language and some drug use.” Ted 2, on the other hand, is rated R for “crude and sexual content, pervasive language and some drug use,” though with MacFarlane’s interest in keeping his lifelong pals forever in the vicinity of a nice big bong and a nonstop supply of weed, “some drug use” is also relative.
The sequel opens with an absurdly lavish musical credit sequence, stealing from Fred Astaire and the Nicholas brothers, set to Irving Berlin’s “Steppin’ Out With My Baby.” (Broadway veteran Rob Ashford choreographed, and beautifully.) Ted the magical talking teddy bear is celebrating his marriage to the woman he calls his “Bawston hoor,” played by gum-chewing Jessica Barth. John, played by Wahlberg, married Mila Kunis’ blandly tolerant female lead in the first Ted but that union has been severed, and John’s alone and depressed and addicted to porn. What a lovable loser! Until you start dwelling on that particular detail; then he becomes something less cuddly.
Ted’s marriage to his fellow grocery store cashier sours as well, until the genital-free plush toy and his bride decide to have a baby. With full sincerity Ted 2 believes in Ted’s own line: with a kid in an unhappy home, “it’ll teach us to love each other again.” Works every time.
The serious bits in Ted 2 relate to Ted being revoked of his basic civil rights, his personhood, when the courts declare him to be property, not human. Parallels to Dred Scott, the legacy of slavery and America’s history of prejudice and intolerance are made throughout the film, sometimes effectively, sometimes in ways where you think: Huh? Wha? Ted’s marriage is annulled; he loses his job. It’s up to a fledgling lawyer (Amanda Seyfried, introduced lighting up a bong) to right the wrongs and reawaken John’s lust for life.
I laughed three or four times, mostly at verbal byplay since director MacFarlane struggles when it comes to timing, filming and cutting sight gags, many of them (including the accident at the fertility clinic) straight out of his cash cow Family Guy. There’s a riff on F. Scott Fitzgerald that works mysteriously well. The Liam Neeson cameo does, too. A lyric interlude, featuring Seyfried singing an original tune (“Mean Ol’ Moon”) written by MacFarlane and composer Walter Murphy, resurrects the old joke about woodland creatures cooing over the female protagonist’s musical charms: When the lobster rolls up with the raccoon and the fawn, it’s just stupid enough to click.
The rest of the movie, eh. What I said three years ago about the formula in Ted goes for Ted 2: MacFarlane’s career is built on “a high quotient of startlingly crude ethnic and cultural stereotypes leavened by a sincere appreciation for American popular music of another era.” I’ve seen worse comedies this year, and I’ll see better.
Ted 2 (R): ★★✩ ✩ ✩