“Ted 2” (R) 2 stars (out of four)
Writer-director Seth MacFarlane is toying with his audiences again, quite literally, with “Ted 2,” the inevitable sequel to his 2012 smash about the travails of a foul-mouthed stuffed Teddy bear and his longtime owner/friend. Though not revolutionary, “Ted 2” pulls out all the stops, humor-wise, and is no doubt an improvement over the original. One thing’s for certain: No matter how well the film is received by audiences, it’s “Citizen Kane” compared to MacFarlane’s 2014 Western spoof misfire “A Million Ways to Die in the West.”
MacFarlane once again voices Ted, the plaything who magically came to life when John (Mark Wahlberg), desperate for a friend as a child, had a special wish come true. The crux of the first film involved John separating from his “Thunder Buddy” (Ted helped John quell his fear of thunderstorms) so he could live a normal life with his girlfriend, Lori (Mila Kunis), and at the beginning of “Ted 2,” we find out that the couple married, only to soon divorce.
Ted, on the other hand, is happily in love with the hard-livin’ Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth), and the film opens with their wedding. Flash-forward a year later, and the couple’s wedded bliss has hit the wall – and in an attempt to save their marriage, Ted tells Tami-Lynn that he wants them to have a baby, but obviously he can’t impregnate her because, well, he’s not equipped to do so. Exploring the options of artificial insemination and adoption, the question is raised of Ted’s legal status – since he’s not a human, he can’t by law adopt, so he goes to court to change his status from “property” to “person.”
Naturally, “Ted 2” doesn’t feel as original as the concept in the first film, and at best, the sequel is just more of the same. Basically, “Ted 2” is just another one-joke movie (Listen! It’s a foul-mouthed Teddy bear!), but at least MacFarlane is willing to go all-out with his dialogue without any fear of offending anybody (which is welcome in these touchy-feely times that we live in). Essentially, “Ted,” as well as “Ted 2,” is an extension of his hit animated TV series “Family Guy,” which is basically loaded with pop-culture references designed to push people’s buttons. Not surprisingly, Ted’s voice is virtually the same as “Family Guy’s” main guy, Peter Griffin (also voiced by MacFarlane).
Despite the lack of the originality, there’s no question “Ted 2” has its share of funny moments, especially in Ted and John’s ill-fated trip to the sperm bank. Like the first film, there are notable star cameos in “Ted 2,” but the main cast – Wahlberg, back with Giovanni Ribisi (great again as a creeper who wants his own Ted), and joined by the likes of Morgan Freeman, Amanda Seyfried (an attorney who fights for Ted’s “civil rights”) and John Slattery (an attorney for the state) – is quite capable of getting the job done. Seyfried is much more likable than Kunis in her role as a dope-smoking pop-culture illiterate, and you’ll never look at her the same after a scene with somebody dressed up like Gollum from “The Lord of the Rings” movies.
Like “The Lord of the Rings,” “Ted 2” is designed with a specific audience in mind. High-critics will hate it, while those undaunted by gross-out comedy and gutsy humor will love it. Appealing to the pop-culture geek element, the film’s third act takes place at the New York Comic Con, with lots of wonderful appearances by cosplayers skillfully worked into the action. Despite its heavy-handed courtroom narrative and overly-long run time, “Ted 2,” for what it is, works. What more could you ask for from a movie based on a toy?