Kurt Loder Movie Reviews

Movie Review: Ted 2

Seth MacFarlane seeks new laughs in the old low places.


Ted 2
Universal Pictures

Unlike the millions of satisfied customers who made the first Ted a half-billion-dollar hit three years ago, I had a problem with that movie. The notion of a trash-talking teddy bear is pretty funny—but funny for how long? Even a trash-talk prodigy like Seth MacFarlane, who directed the film, co-wrote the script, and embodied the titular bear via motion-capture, can grind you down at extended length. As bracing as it was to witness PC pieties being curb-stomped with such unaccustomed abandon, after about an hour of babe jokes, homo gags, and genial racial slurs, I just wanted the movie to shut up.

Ted 2, with MacFarlane back again in mo-cap harness, is more easily endured. Much trash is still talked (in an uproarious fertility-clinic scene, for example: "You're covered in rejected black guys' sperm, like a Kardashian"). But the anything-for-a-laugh antics are leavened with references to actual social issues, both of-the-moment (gay marriage) and age-old (chattel slavery). This sounds lame, I know—a desperate striving for substance. But it adds useful narrative ballast, and the issues arise fairly naturally from the story's motivating dilemma: the quest of a good-hearted (if foul-mouthed) bear to have his humanity acknowledged by the forces of government oppression.

The movie picks up more or less where the last one left off. Ted and Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth), his fellow check-out clerk in a Boston grocery store, are now married, while Ted's childhood friend John (Mark Wahlberg), who wedded Mila Kunis at the end of the previous film, is now a divorced Internet-porn addict. When Ted and Tami-Lynn decide they want a child, they are compelled by Ted's lack of traditional procreational equipment to visit an adoption agency. This sets off an alarm in the halls of officialdom, and Ted soon finds his credit cards canceled, his marriage voided, and his existential status harshly defined: he doesn't qualify as human, so he can only be "property."

This is great news for the devious Donny (Giovanni Ribisi again), who has long wanted to make Ted his own property. Donny now works at the Hasbro toy company, and he devises a scheme with his boss (John Carroll Lynch) to kidnap Ted, determine the secret of his near-human capabilities, and then begin reproducing him as a mass consumer product.

While Donny stalks Ted, the bear himself is in court, trying to make his case as a sentient being with the help of fledgling civil-rights attorney Samantha (Amanda Seyfried), an after-hours pothead who carries a penis-shaped bong in her bag. Samantha provides romantic possibilities for the downcast John and of course joke fodder for Ted. ("Was it just kissin' last night," he asks John, "or was there finger stuff?") We realize early on that the courtroom scenes are headed in the direction of Miracle on 34th Street. The kidnap plot is a little fresher, leading to a long chase through the geek-packed precinct of New York Comic Con. There are many laughs along the way, almost all of them as happily deplorable as you'd expect.

Returning to the fray along with Ribisi and Barth this time are Patrick Warburton, as John's snotty gay work colleague, and Sam J. Jones, the onetime Flash Gordon star, again playing a coke-addled version of himself. But some of the better moments belong to newbies. A handjob plot involving NFL quarterback Tom Brady doesn't really amount to much, but Jay Leno is a surprise, scurrying out of a men's room after a gay-sex encounter, and an entirely non-scurrilous scene featuring Liam Neeson and a box of Trix is surreal perfection.

We know that MacFarlane, who once again cowrote the script with his Family Guy partners Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild, is a funny man. But his brand of shock comedy is growing frayed, and you keep wishing he'd move on to something at least a little less gaudy. Toward the end of the movie, there's an exchange between Ted and Morgan Freeman, playing another civil-rights lawyer, that suggests better things. Drinking in Freeman's sonorous delivery, Ted waits a beat and then says, "I wanna sleep on a bed made of your voice." Nice, Seth. Go for it.

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  1. I can’t wait to not watch this.

  2. Are there any funny gags about blinding Vietnamese shopkeepers?

      1. I hope it’s in 3d!

  3. My wife and kids forced me to watch the first one cause MARK WAHLBERG!

    I made it about 1/2 an hour.

    Sa JMC notes above, I cannot WAIT not to see this one!

  4. Agree on first one — very hard to sit through…

  5. Ah, Seth McFarland, still playing Peter Griffin years after he’s made Peter Griffin completely unfunny.

  6. There is a whole swath of comedy that is far funnier to me when people tell me about it than when I actually see it in person. Monty Python struck me that way. So have pretty much all the Primetime Animateds of the last few decades. The Simpsons, South Park, Family Guy, and the rest. People quote bits to me and I think “Maybe I’m not being fair. I should give them another try.”. And I do, and they re just as tiresome as I thought they were.

    A large part of it is that the characters are repulsive. I don’t want to spend time with them. Not every when they are being amusing.

    And, oddly, I didn’t feel that way about the DILBERT animated, and that failed?..

    1. You don’t think Monty Python is funny?

      *crosses CSP off the ‘maybe kill last’ list*

      1. Python is weird. Some of it quotes better than it plays. The Mr. Creosote scene, for example. Everybody I know quotes that exchange as “Better.” “Oh, good.” “Better get a bucket.”, when in fact it’s “Better get a bucket, I’m going to be sick.”. The actual skit says too much, and the audience edits it in memory.

        Also, a lot of it that strikes a U.S. citizen as just surreal, is much more pointed if you know a little about the BBC of that era and just before. I remember a skit about scaling South High Street (or something similar) that was filmed by laying the camera on it’s side and having players driving pitons into the sidewalk and hauling themselves along as if the flat sidewalk were a vertical cliff. I thought it was just acid-trippy until I visited England in 1975 and saw an actual BBC show about some climber interminably scaling some obscure cliff. The Python skit was actually fairly subtle satire. Which makes me wonder about some of the other Python stuff that I simply don’t get.

        My wife can (and does) quote practically the whole of Holy Grail. And some of what she quotes is hysterical. But a lot of it is “OK, this isn’t being delivered at my address”. Enough that I have never seen the film and don’t intend to.

  7. I haven’t seen the film and will probably wait until it comes to cable.

    Since Ted is a bear, I’m surprised no references to animal rights were made.

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  9. Potty mouth, potty mind., calling the kettle black

  10. Sounds like a bunch of “comic book store owner” guys here today. (Simpson’s reference, no offence to any actual comic book store owners.)

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