Sequels don’t have to suck. Recent surprises like The Dark Knight and Toy Story 2 are proof that second servings can be just as good, if not better, than the first. Unfortunately, this exception does not apply to Ted 2, since this second iteration of Seth McFarlane’s talking bear does nothing to dispel the popular notion that sequels, almost always, come up short.
Ted 2 picks up with a divorced John, played by a distraught Mark Wahlberg whose ex-wife Lori leaves him because she refuses to accept John’s friendship with Ted, his foul-mouthed teddy bear best friend. Ted also faces marriage difficulties and decides to save his relationship with his human wife Tami-Lynn (played by a one-dimensional Jessica Barth) by having a baby. For obvious anatomical reasons, Tami-Lynn and Ted are unable to conceive a baby and decide to adopt. But the state of Massachusetts rules that Ted cannot adopt because he is a piece of property, not a person, thus setting the stage for a legal battle that occupies most of this movie’s preposterous plot.
The most that can be said about Ted 2 is that it at least tries to grapple with serious historical questions; questions rooted in America’s troubled past and present. With allusions to slavery, including a direct recollection of the Dred Scott decision, director Seth MacFarlane situates the teddy bear’s dilemma in the context of America’s violent past, and current racial tensions. Touching on issues of civil rights and personhood, Ted 2 also seems vaguely aware of the current debate over undocumented immigrants and their invisibility in the eyes of our government, as well as the recent battle over gay marriage.
A comedy like Ted 2 can be the perfect vehicle to address the moral quagmires of legality and race. Sophisticated comedies are able to use their veneer of humor to commentate on social issues. However, Ted 2 is not a sophisticated comedy. MacFarlane’s jokes rely on crude stereotypes and are never above the vulgar shock factor. One example is when John and Ted shout “Ferguson” and “Bill Cosby” as suggestions for an improv act. In another scene, Ted compares himself to a brutalized slave on TV, a joke that is tasteless and which actually belittles the real history of slavery.
Perhaps what is most offensive about Ted 2 is its laziness. For instance, there are many pointless and incoherent cameos throughout this movie. In one scene, Liam Neeson, playing his character from Taken, attempts to buy a box of the cereal Trix from Ted. who works as a super market cash register. I found the exchange between Neeson and Ted bizarre, distracting, and ultimately not very funny. Another example is when Ted and John fail to steal Tom Brady’s sperm, along the way referencing the “deflategate” scandal of last year. Although these two cameos, along with a litany of others, manage to elicit a few chuckles at best, they are lazily thrown into the movie.
Worse still, Ted 2 is reminiscent of the Scary Movie franchise, a series of horror spoofs chock full of unwieldy cultural references. Seth MacFarlane manages to mention everything from Fox News to F. Scott Fitzgerald. Maybe we should be impressed by how many references MacFarlane throws in (he clearly wants us to be), but this everything-but-the kitchen-sink approach seems forced. After a while I found myself checking the time and simply wishing for the movie to end. Clocking in at two hours, Ted 2 is a painfully long experience.
As someone who appreciated MacFarlane’s original Ted, his Ted 2 is disappointing to say the least. This time around, MacFarlane oversteps the fine line between creative and crass. If you’re reading this, Ted 2 producers, please refrain from producing a Ted 3.
Grade: C+. You may forget to laugh.