A film review by Craig J. Koban July 9, 2015

TED 2 jjj

2015, R, 115 mins.


Mark Wahlberg as John Bennett  /  Seth MacFarlane as Ted (voice)  /  Amanda Seyfried as Samantha Leslie Jackson  /  Jessica Barth as Tami-Lynn McCafferty  /  Patrick Warburton as Guy  /  Morgan Freeman as Patrick Meighan 

Directed by Seth MacFarlane  /  Written by Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, and Wellesley Wild

There’s a fairly inconsequential, but remarkably droll scene in TED 2 that had me laughing longer and harder than just about any scene from any movie that I’ve seen lately. 

It occurs at the grocery store that the titular character works at as a cashier (once again voiced with a unrestrained gusto by Seth MacFarlane).  The workers and customers of the store, much like society around them on the outside, seem to have taken the existence of a stuffed teddy bear that’s alive and speaks its mind with a relative nonchalant attitude.  

A customer comes to Ted’s counter (the identity of the very famous actor playing him will be withheld by me) with a single item: a box of Trix cereal.  With a stern faced solemnity, the man asks Ted “I’ve been led to understand that Trix are exclusively for kids…is that correct?  Is that enforced by law?”  Dumbfounded – and perhaps a bit scared – Ted replies, “Not to my knowledge.”  The man further asks, “So, if I purchase these there won’t be any trouble and I won’t be followed?”  Ted, again frightened and agitated, retorts, “No, that’s not in our budget.”  The man buys the Trix, hides it in his jacket, and then looks the diminutive stuffed toy in the eye and deadpans, “I’ll never forget what you’ve done for me today.” 

I howled for what felt like minutes during this bizarrely funny throwaway scene that didn’t really fundamentally add anything tangible to the overall plot of TED 2.  It’s MacFarland’s knack, though, for marrying small moments of pure comic absurdity like this with decidedly lowbrow observational comedy that made the first TED film from 2012 such a wickedly spirited laughfest.  That film – which chronicled the lifelong bromance between John (Mark Wahlberg) and his childhood toy come to life in Ted – was a deliriously original and uproariously funny comedy that found ample laughs in showcasing the outwardly adorable Ted engage in wantonly unhealthy and self-destructive behavior.  Yes, TED was a gimmick movie, but what a gimmick.  Not too many other films with talking toys had their lead characters curse up a blue streak, binge drinking, habitually smoking weed, gorging on drugs, and having stock room sex with co-workers.  Ted was no Teddy Ruxpin.  

Oh yeah, never compare Ted to Teddy Ruxpin…like ever. 



TED 2, perhaps more out of pure financial motive (the first film was an unqualified hit) seemed like a foregone conclusion.  The sequel certainly ups the ante for scatological shenanigans (which may or may not be a good thing, depending on your prerogative), and even though this film lacks the daringly brazen freshness of approach as its antecedent and feels perhaps too juvenile at times for its own good, MacFarlane and company still seem able and willing to do just about anything for a laugh.  TED 2 does try hard…really hard…to score hearty chuckles from audience members; it could easily be argued that 50 per cent of them hit their intended bullseyes, whereas the other half sort of fall flat.  Comedy sequels are a hard nut to crack, and MacFarlane understands that the key here with his sequel is quantity, and for the most part TED 2 is joyously – and sometimes infectiously – amusing…even if you feel ashamed later for what you laughed at. 

TED 2 opens with the titular character finally marrying the love of his life in Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth), which marks the first time in movie history that a woman has walked down the isle to exchange vows with…a toy (also funny is that they are married by Sam Jones, the same Sam Jones of FLASH GORDON fame that had a terrific extended cameo in TED 1 as a shockingly hedonistic party animal).  After the film has a wonderfully staged Busby Berkeley-style song and dance title card sequence, the film settles in for the later domestic strife that Ted and Tami-Lynn find themselves embroiled in; their scenes have a fleeting resemblance to similar moments in RAGING BULL between Robert De Niro and Cathy Moriarty.  I found this sequence a satiric hoot, even if the cinematic referencing is kind of old and will escape many modern viewers. 

Things aren’t great for Ted’s best man and “Thunderbuddy For Life” in John as his previous relationship has ended (mostly because the last film’s co-star in Mila Kunis could not appear in this follow-up entry), leaving him a depressed mess.  John and Ted find a new cause to fight for when Ted decides that the best way to rekindle his icy cold marriage is to have a baby, which is really, really hard since Ted does not have a penis, leaving impregnating Tami-Lynn an impossibility.  When artificial insemination also proves problematic, Ted opts for adoption, but when a governmental declaration hits the bear hard – legally declaring him a piece of property and not a person under the law – Ted and John go on the offensive and hire up-and-coming lawyer Samantha (a very game Amanda Seyfried) that vows to do what she can to fight for Ted’s civil rights.  Oh, and she also curses like a sailor and really loves pot, which leaves things wide open for a potential romantic fling for John.  Granted, she has no radar whatsoever for pop culture.  She doesn’t even realize that her name (Samantha L. Jackson) is eerily the same as a famous African American actor…even after Ted hysterical reminds her. 

MacFarlane – returning again as co-writer, director, and, yes, performer – knows intuitively how to throw comedic punches all throughout TED 2 (he seems back in his comfort zone after the rather middling and disappointing western comedy A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST).  Much like the first TED, MacFarland enthusiastically mixes pure hard-R rated raunch with endearing light-hearted sweetness.  Of course, there are moments when he goes a bit too far for gross-out gags (a scene in a fertility clinic – featuring a would-be hilarious moment with poor John having dozens of valves of semen samples spilled all over him – seems more desperate and forced than funny), but he realizes that the finest humor the film has to offer directly corresponds to the human – and not-so-human – relationships.  There’s a riotous moment involving Ted trying to summon up Beetlejuice to help him in the courtroom (which literally freaks John out) and yet another scene involving Ted, John, and Samantha on a road trip to secure the help of a hot shot attorney (Morgan Freeman) that leads to the trio being stranded on a farm and culminates in a very amusing riff on a famous JURASSIC PARK scene.  And then there’s an inexplicably strange scene early in the film showing the hopeless duo trying to steal…Tom Brady’s sperm…with predictably funny results.    

Perhaps what’s least interesting in this sequel is the whole civil rights legal battle that Ted finds himself embroiled in as he tries to become a “person” again.  TED 2 becomes a far-too-serious affair as a large result of this subplot, and at the risk of subverting its capricious edge.  More often than not, this sequel can’t seem to find the requisite balance between hearty laughs and genuine dramatic beats, which makes the film, as a whole, feel tonally uneven.  At nearly two hours long, TED 2 – like oh-so-many contemporary comedies – is way too long and could have benefited for some judicious editing.  Comedies lose their momentum after the 90-100 minute mark, and while I appreciate MacFarlane’s willingness to throw everything he has at us, TED 2 starts to get stale as it lumbers towards its climax (at New York Comic Con, of all places).   That, and the way the story drums up an old antagonist from the first film seems lazy in execution. 

Yet, I can’t deny that I laughed a lot during TED 2.  I shouldn’t be recommending this film.  I really shouldn’t.  There were ample awkward silences during my screening of the film…but the film contains enough humor that does work to make up for its deficiencies.  Plus, I admired the spontaneous energy of Wahlberg and Seyfried, both of whom have no problems making themselves look completely foolish opposite of a CGI teddy bear (Wahlberg himself, as was the case in the first film, really deserves props for fully investing himself in the ludicrously far-out nature of these films).  Beyond the comedic goodwill brought to the table by this film’s cast, Ted himself – despite his toxically immoral code at times – remains a likeable creation that usually has his heart in the right place…unless of course he doesn’t have a heart.  

I mean…does he?   

Ah, never mind.   

  H O M E