Director: Seth MacFarlane
Cast: Seth MacFarlane, Mark Wahlberg, Amanda Seyfried, Morgan Freeman, Jessica Barth
Runtime: 1 hr 56 mins
Rating: M18 (Coarse Language and Some Drug Use)
Released By: UIP
Opening Day: 2 July 2015
Synopsis: Seth MacFarlane returns as writer, director and voice star of Ted 2, Universal and Media Rights Capital’s follow-up to the highest-grossing original R-rated comedy of all time. Joined once again by star Mark Wahlberg and fellow Ted writers Alec Sulkin & Wellesley Wild, MacFarlane produces the live action/CG-animated comedy alongside Bluegrass Films’ Scott Stuber, as well as John Jacobs and Jason Clark.
What was once fresh has now unfortunately turned stale, and disgustingly offensive. If the latter sounded like an oxymoron, it is not. As much as we could accept the scatological humour in the first ‘Ted’, this sequel pushes the envelope just too far by being plain insulting. How else are we to think of the prompts that the profane, pot-smoking teddy bear yells at an improv comedy club – “9/11,” “Robin Williams” and “Charlie Hebdo” – that the comedians simply respond with unnerved silence? It is one thing to be rude and crude, but quite another to be obnoxious, and director, writer and co-actor Seth McFarlane doesn’t seem to care about the difference.
It is precisely this daftness that has him try to weave a coherent plot built on Ted’s civil rights, in which the titular character goes to the courts to fight for his recognition as person, not property – the latter meaning not only that he and his wife Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth) aren’t entitled to adopt a baby but also that he cannot be employed or be married in the state of Massachusetts. The gimmick is good on its own, but much, much less so when McFarlane tries to liken Ted’s struggle to that of Kunta Kinte getting whipped in ‘Roots’, or Ferguson, or Dred Scott. Indeed, the parallels that McFarlane tries to draw with America’s freighted history with slavery are clear, but both misguided and distasteful.
It also distracts from what could – and should have – purely been a comedic premise, instead of a dramatically expanded one, based upon Ted’s desire to have a baby in order to save his marriage. Yes, before it gets distracted by trying to be something more substantial, McFarlane sticks to the same lowbrow hijinks that made the originals such a raucous delight. The more memorable ones that come closest to matching the brash and ballsy humour of the original include one where Ted dresses up in yellow rain gear like Paddington the bear to break into Tom Brady’s mansion to milk his sperm, and another at the sperm bank where a playful spat between Ted and his human best friend John (Mark Wahlberg) results in the latter knocking over a shelving unit and splashed with ejaculate.
There are also plenty of random gags which are right in line with the sophomoric humour of the first movie. Ted’s rendition of the ‘Law and Order’ theme song with made-up lyrics is pretty amusing, and so is Liam Neeson’s cameo as a shopper at the supermarket where Ted is working as a cashier who seems unusually paranoid about the box of Trix cereal he looks like he wants to buy. Pop culture references are also aplenty, and besides 80s TV shows like Flash Gordon (whose star Sam Jones cameos once again), there is also a running joke about Samuel L. Jackson being THE “black guy” in any Hollywood movie. And not forgetting of course, the sexual humour, including computer porn, bears making out and even a gay bathroom joke that Jay Leno gamely gets in on.
If that sounds a lot like the first ‘Ted’, it does, but what it sorely lacks is the sweet centre that was the enduring friendship between Ted and John. Sure, there are traces of it here – like how Ted and John continue to do bong hits together on the latter’s living room couch – but all in all, there is too little of the buddy comedy that was epitomised in the ‘thunder buddies’ song. Instead, the latter half in particular gets especially bogged down by melodramatic courtroom proceedings and a needlessly frenetic chase at New York’s Comic-Con, where Giovanni Ribisi’s erstwhile stalker Danny returns to seize the bear and cut open its stitching in order to find out just what makes Ted talk and walk.
Thankfully, Wahlberg and McFarlane’s chemistry is still spot on, the former once again demonstrating his impeccable timing for comedy that we don’t quite see enough of and the latter delivering Ted’s zingers with a thick Boston accent perfectly. We hardly see enough of them this time round (especially since John is pretty much relegated to the back where the general public is seated once the trial begin proper), and Amanda Seyfried’s bong-smoking lawyer Samantha proves to be a more subdued – and also more boring – substitute for Mila Kunis, the only cast member in the original who does not return and whose character we are told gets divorced from John just six months after their nuptials.
But as much as ‘Ted 2’ is overall less funny than its predecessor, what truly stands out about this sequel is how dumb its political incorrectness is. Like we said at the start, even with the thresholds that we are accept how hostile, puerile and graphically gross McFarlane is willing to go, it is simply appalling to hear how cavalier he treats real-life tragedies like 9/11 and Charlie Hebdo. Yeah, we all do need to have a bigger sense of humour sometimes, but this teddy bear doesn’t deserve to be a person if it doesn’t even know what not to make fun of. No wonder then that ‘Ted 2’ finds him fighting to be seen as person, not property, for he doesn't quite seem to know that it takes more than being potty-mouthed and pot-smoking to prove that he has got a soul.
(Ted is still as vulgar and puerile as ever, but this sequel replaces the heart and empathy of its predecessor with a disgusting offensiveness that thinks 9/11 and Charlie Hebdo should be the stuff of jokes)
Review by Gabriel Chong