With the nuance and grace of a newborn butterfly alighting gently on a dewy rose petal, Seth MacFarlane’s comedy gently tickles you before wafting away into the breeze.
HA! I kid.
Stampeding elephants on a cocaine bender are more subtle than MacFarlane, and Ted 2 proves even that might not be an apt-enough comparison. Arguably even more profane and scatological than the first film, it hits you (at times) like a forty-ton Mac truck of blue humor on a highway leading out of comedy hell. And though there are moments throughout where it actually works, more often than not Ted 2 gets real old real quick and ends up being just a muddled, rambling hodge-podge of flat jokes.
The movie opens with the titular walking, talking teddy bear (voiced by MacFarlane) getting married to his old girlfriend Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth). The happy couple is beaming at first, but a year later we see their nights are filled with white trash arguments in their Boston apartment. To help set things right, Ted’s buddy John (Mark Wahlberg) suggests the pair have a child, but because of the anatomical issues, Ted must either use a sperm donor (an option that’s jettisoned after coming to a particularly disgusting resolution) or adopt. While meeting with the counselor, Ted is denied because he’s not human– a discovery that also costs him his job, his credit cards, and the legality of his marriage.
Enter Amanda Seyfried as Samantha, a novice attorney who takes Ted’s case, hoping to prove he is in fact human (enough) to raise a kid.
And it’s right about here that the penis jokes (and semen jokes and porn jokes) and random pointless cameos (Liam Neeson’s is the lone exception) just get tiresome. Ted 2 starts careening off the tracks, morphing into something closer to a mix of a pseudo legal drama and a rejected Animal House script. I didn’t lose hope, though, that Ted 2 could regain its footing– until everything came to a screeching halt so Samantha could serenade the guys around a campfire. Huh?
Part (heck, most) of the appeal of the original film was the unique idea that this foul-mouthed bear even existed and that the entire world could just somehow go along with the notion. In the sequel, though, that sense of newness is gone, and all we’re left with is a gutter-mouthed bear who doesn’t think a joke is really funny until it’s repeated ad nauseum. (And sometimes even that isn’t enough.)
MacFarlane, as far as I’m concerned, is best in small doses– and there are admittedly some brilliant bits on display here. Homages to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles and The Breakfast Club work well, but much of the rest, including ho-hum appearances by Morgan Freeman and Tony Slattery and a full half-hour of wasted opportunities when the plot takes the gang to New York Comic-Con, does nothing but make you realize what could have been.
I get that MacFarlane (who also co-wrote the script and directed) loves to push buttons and that nothing is off-limits in his world (there are jokes involving Robin Williams and 9/11 along the way), but I’m convinced that he needs a buddy himself to help tighten things up and stay on track.
That way, we’d just have that one, really good joke about the penis-shaped bong… instead of a dozen. Or, better yet, he would have left well-enough alone after Ted.