Seth MacFarlane returns to the stuffed well once more for Ted 2, the lazy and droopy sequel to Ted. The 2015 comedy falls into the same traps as the first outing, with so much winking and nudging and smirking that the actual jokes fall by the wayside. Like his work in 2014’s A Million Ways to Die in the West, Ted 2 revels in MacFarlane’s joke telegraphing and doesn’t do much else.
The general style of Ted 2 (and of most MacFarlane ventures) involves the presentation of some sort of pop culture artifact and/or topical conceit followed by a sort of elbow to the ribs as though the mere presentation of said artifact and/or conceit sells itself. In Ted 2, Patrick Warburton shows up dressed up as the Tick. Remember The Tick? That’s the joke.
Ted 2 picks up with the talking stuffed bear, voiced by MacFarlane, getting married to Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth). They start having marital problems and decide to solve their issues by having a kid, but this presents some complications because he’s a stuffed bear and whatnot. The path to adoption is also rife with complications because the state refuses to acknowledge Ted’s personhood.
With the help of his best friend John (Mark Wahlberg) and a newbie lawyer named Samantha Jackson (Amanda Seyfried), Ted fights the case and tries to get acknowledged as a sentient being. They even seek the help of a renowned civil rights attorney (Morgan Freeman). Plus, Donny (Giovanni Ribisi) returns for some reason.
The main plot of Ted 2 invites a number of comparisons to ongoing civil rights issues, with Ted’s plight compared to the 1857 case of Dred Scott and other historical landmarks of equality. MacFarlane makes sure his stuffed bear sides with the “fags” and “homos,” too, and employs all the necessary frat-boy abrasiveness to get the point across.
The screenplay by MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild rumbles with old hat gags. The trio wrote A Million Ways to Die in the West and the first Ted, so audiences should know what they’re getting by now. The female characters are flat exhibitions of idealistic desire, with Seyfried’s character proving she can rock the bong with the big boys and Barth fading into the background yet again.
Supporting characters are paraded through without much purpose and even Wahlberg takes a backseat. He phones in his scenes and looks dreary, which may or may not have to do with all the dope smoke. At one point, he’s covered in semen because there has to be some lethargic sort of joke to be found at a sperm bank.
There’s nothing wrong with the level of crassness on display in Ted 2. What really sinks this movie is its utter lack of care. A gag involving sad topics for an improvisational comedy troupe plays like a cutaway from Family Guy, only the characters didn’t even have to show up to be in the shot. More overdubbing is found elsewhere, with various afterthought jokes presumably crammed into the walls.
The whole thing is shot like a television show, with Michael Barrett’s cinematography doing little beyond taking drab pictures of people while they talk. The design of Ted is on par with the first movie, as it should be, and there are some neat moments of expressiveness coming from the bear’s countenance.
There are times that MacFarlane seems to channel Frank Capra or Busby Berkeley, but he doesn’t have the good sense to carry the jokes. The opening credits are done with a glitzy song and dance number, but it’s just presented for the sake of it. He figures it’s enough to just lay the reference down and point.
In part, that’s what makes MacFarlane’s brand work for his sort of crowd. He plays to viewers who still somehow revel in their ability to recognize a Ninja Turtle. For more discriminating audiences, Ted 2 requires more juice than it actually has. It loses steam quickly and overstays its welcome, further solidifying the director’s inability to provide anything authentic or substantial or legitimately rousing.