As a child I played with G.I. Joe and other dolls for boys that are now called action figures. I’d sit in the floor for hours and create my own stories in my head. To me Joe and the others were alive and were my sons. We’d fight crime together, solve mysteries, explore alien worlds and protect the Earth from invading robots. They were the playmates that weren’t available as there weren’t many children my age nearby. My dad didn’t really like the idea of his youngest son playing with dolls. While he never said anything directly to me, my mother told me of his displeasure. I tried to keep my adventures with my sons as low key and quiet as possible but one time I said “Dad” out loud acting as the voice of one of my imaginary boys and my father responded, asking what I wanted. I felt the flash of heat in my face as I had to explain I wasn’t talking to him and saw the combined look of realization and mild disgust as he understood what happened. Despite this, I continued to play with my dolls and treat them like people for some time after. It took imagination to believe pieces of plastic were alive. In “Ted 2,” it takes expert CGI and the voice acting talents of Seth MacFarlane to create a living teddy bear…again. Does this return visit to Boston rely on the same jokes and premise as last time? To a point, yes.
Ted (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) and Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth) are recently married. John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) is now divorced from his wife and hasn’t reentered the dating scene for fear of wasting more of his life on another doomed relationship. Ted and Tami-Lynn soon begin fighting over her buying clothes and his buying drugs. Their marriage may be over after just six months. A coworker at the grocery store suggests they have a baby to help strengthen their marriage. Ted suggests it and Tami-Lynn agrees. Since Ted lacks sex organs he decides for artificial insemination. After efforts to procure both Sam Jones and Tom Brady (playing themselves) as donors, John offers and Ted accepts. Sadly, Tami-Lynn is unable to conceive due to damage caused by years of drug abuse so they head to an adoption agency. After making some phone calls, the adoption agent informs them they won’t be able to get a child because, in the eyes of the state, Ted is property. The inquiries from the adoption agency set in motion the wheels of government and soon Ted is stripped of his job, his bank accounts and all his rights. John and Ted approach a law firm and are sent to a junior associate who will take the case for free. Samantha Jackson (Amanda Seyfried) is untested and new but has an enthusiasm for the case plus she loves to smoke weed. Taking the case to court generates publicity that attracts the attention of Donny (Giovanni Rabisi), Ted’s obsessed fan that now works as a janitor at Hasbro, the original maker of that model of teddy bear. Donny urges the Hasbro CEO Tom Jessup (John Carroll Lynch) to do everything in his power to make sure Ted is declared property, making the legal ramifications of abducting him minimal. Donny believes if they cut Ted open they can figure out what makes him alive then duplicate it to make millions of Ted copies. All Donny wants is a Ted of his very own to love and he doesn’t care of the original has to die to get it.
“Ted 2” doesn’t break any new ground and relies on the familiar mix of sex/drug humor and pop culture references that the first film and most of Seth MacFarlane’s comedy is rooted in. This could be looked at in two ways: Either it’s lazy film making or, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. I tend to lean toward the latter.
The combo of MacFarlane’s voice acting, Ted’s adorable design and Mark Wahlberg’s lovable lunkhead John make for a winning mix of personality and charm. Even when they are behaving like drunken teenagers (which is most of the time) the Thunder Buddies never come off as grating or tedious. While this certainly isn’t the most complicated character Wahlberg has ever played, he manages to give the character a sweetness and innocence that probably comes from spending most of his free time with a living teddy bear. Who wouldn’t be something of a softie if your favorite childhood toy came to life and lived with you well into adulthood? Wahlberg also manages to give the role some mild emotional depth as he deals with the end of his marriage. While obviously a plot device to add the character of Samantha Jackson and give John a love interest, Wahlberg manages to convey a fair amount of pain and loneliness due to this turn of events. Amanda Seyfried displays her comedy chops in the role of the young attorney. Seyfried doesn’t mind getting down and dirty with the boys and holds her own. She also gets to display her singing voice with an original tune written by MacFarlane. It isn’t the big showy kind of song she sang in “Les Miserables” but it manages to move her and Wahlberg’s characters towards the inevitable romantic moment her presence calls for. The rest of the cast, including cameos by Liam Neeson and Jay Leno, delivers well-timed comic bombs that more often than not hit their targets.
The true test of “Ted 2” is if it’s funny and it is. MacFarlane’s TV cartoon shows are well known for the cutaway jokes that have nothing to do with the story and they also make up a part of the movie. Pop culture references also fill a big chunk of “Ted 2’s” nearly two hour running time. Sports, music and the ever growing geek culture of comic conventions are all fodder for MacFarlane’s signature humor. The script is densely packed with jokes and the majority of them work. There are a few clunkers along the way but given how many times the script tries to make the audience laugh it’s forgivable if a few of them fall short.
One issue I have with the film is similar to my complaint about the first film and that is the subplot involving Giovanni Rabisi’s obsessed fan. His character and everything surrounding it sticks out like a sore thumb. It simply doesn’t fit with the rest of the world created by MacFarlane and company. Rabisi’s Donny is a combination of damaged child and psychopath. His darkness and naiveté is about as appealing as a sprig of broccoli in the middle of a banana split. The story already has an antagonist in the form of the state trying to make Ted a thing. The addition of a mentally disturbed stalker feels like padding to lengthen out the story and it isn’t necessary. I didn’t like it before and time hasn’t softened that opinion.
“Ted 2” is rated R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, and some drug use. A couple of sex acts are talked about and briefly described. We also get a look at a cosplaying woman who, when her shirt is ripped off, exposes her three breasts like in “Total Recall.” Ted, John and Samantha are shown several times using a bong to smoke weed. On a couple of occasions the bong is in the shape of a penis. Foul language is common.
Seeing for the second time a walking, talking teddy bear that loves to drink, smoke weed and have some kind of non-traditional sex with women still creates in my mind a sense of wonder but not as much as the first time. “Ted 2” once again leans heavily on the shock value of a teddy bear doing all the things teddy bears aren’t known for and using the kind of language that would get the mouths of most teddy bear owners washed out with soap. The notion of an inanimate object coming to life is almost as old as storytelling itself: From the golem of Jewish folklore to Pinocchio to Chucky the murderous doll, objects coming to life due to magical circumstances is certainly not a new concept and there isn’t much new in “Ted 2.” While that might be a strike against most movies, here it provides more a feeling of comfort and welcome familiarity. It also doesn’t hurt that most of the jokes work. My one suggestion for “Ted 3” (should it happen) is to leave out the Donny character as it simply doesn’t fit with the rest of the world. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be a villain, just not Donny. Otherwise, “Ted 2” provides more than enough laughs to overcome the feeling of sameness.
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