Seth MacFarlane’s 2012 Ted was, like anything the franchising favorite put his mind to, raunchy and raucous, but at its core suffused with a certain sweetness derived from very traditional notions of lifelong friendship. New sequel, Ted 2, is everything the first film seemingly got right—with a few genuinely, incredibly funny moments sprinkled throughout—but recycled, less effective and generally forgettable.
And really, by this point in human history, you’ve seen what MacFarlane has to offer. You either like it or you don’t—and so you probably already know whether you’ll like Ted 2 or not, whether you’re down for more Family Guy-esque jokes or you’re done with MacFarlane’s brand of “shock” humor: broad stoner gags, esoteric pop culture jabs and cringe-worthy punchlines designed to push your buttons. Which basically means that for every clever bit, Ted 2 wallows in twice as many groan-inducing racist, sexist, homophobic hits. Fair warning, though: Any charm in having such content delivered by a talking teddy bear has officially worn off by now. None of this is really even all that shocking—just bland.
It doesn’t help matters any that Ted 2 is more a series of wacky hijinks stitched together than a story. Picking up where the last movie left off, John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) is now divorced and sad, while his bestest buddy, the anthropomorphic teddy bear Ted (voiced by MacFarlane), marries his sweetheart Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth). When they decide to adopt a baby to save their failing marriage, which is nothing more than a plot point, they learn that legally Ted is considered property. John and Ted then embark on a quest to have Ted declared human, and along the way John falls for big-eyed lawyer Sam Jackson (Amanda Seyfried). Yup: her name is Sam L. Jackson. This is what you signed up for, folks.
Somehow this simple, completely vanilla plot is stretched to damn near two hours. Tediously overlong— Ted 2 is full of unevenly paced scenes—just when the film’s momentum is moving at a nice clip, everything comes to a screeching halt. An ill-advised trip to New York serves the sole purpose of getting the gang to New York Comic Con so MacFarlane can drop countless references. Couple that with a painful subplot that finds Donny (Giovanni Ribisi) from the first film plotting with a toy manufacturer that is completely superfluous. The fact that the whole quest is framed as a civil rights issue, repeatedly comparing Ted’s situation to slavery, also leaves a sour, creepy taste.
Ted and John have the same relationship and chemistry they had in the first film, but while there are moments of sincere connection—Ted 2’s highest achievement is that you, once again, forget that half of the main duo is a talking CGI toy—their Southie banter is not enough to carry the plot. Having a baby to save a relationship is, of course, a terrible idea, and Ted and Tami-Lynn’s marriage is so caustic and toxic that it’s hard to root for them between so much verbal abuse. Meanwhile, John’s dynamic with Sam is forced, generic and entirely predictable, nothing more than a shared affinity for getting stoned out of their minds and mutual physical attraction. They only thing they have to overcome is that John is reluctant to ask her out.
Stylistically, with so much courtroom drama begging the film to keep up a running Law & Order gag throughout, Ted 2 is like watching an especially crude episode of the procedural. Though, like in the original, Ted’s motion capture animation blends seamlessly with live-action elements, which makes the surreal seem normal, and therefore all the more impressive. Yet, the highlights of this sequel have nothing to do with plot, and given what little story there is, dressing up the happenings with self-importance makes no difference. The sequel is a pale reflection of the original, and, like pretty much everything MacFarlane touches, one more forgettable delivery system for his increasingly facile humor.
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Seth MacFarlane, Amanda Seyfried
Release Date: June 26, 2015