The thunder buddies are back, but unfortunately, lightning doesn’t strike twice for Seth MacFarlane and Mark Wahlberg in Ted 2, the lazy sequel to the 2012 hit about a man-child and his foul-mouthed little teddy bear who came to life one day. Not that the first film was some kind of miraculous comic masterpiece; it was messy, episodic and unapologetically smug. That being said, it was inspired in its own raunchy, fearlessly stupid way, making it much easier to excuse director, co-writer and star MacFarlane’s narcissistic infatuation with his politically incorrect sense of humor. This time around though, not only is he even more pleased with himself, he’s resorted to cheap gags that are more mean-spirited than clever, which often left me with an undeniably bitter aftertaste.
The movie begins with the marriage of the titular stuffed animal, Ted (voiced by MacFarlane) and his former drug-addict girlfriend, Tammi-Lynn (Jessica Barth). We then flash-forward to five years later where the two lovebirds are yearning to have a baby, despite Ted’s complete lack of genitalia. After embarking on a humiliatingly crude search for a sperm donor with his best friend, John (Mark Wahlberg), Ted is informed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that he is not legally considered to be ‘a person,’ and therefore, ‘property.’ Cue Amanda Seyfried’s Samantha, a first-time lawyer who takes on our heroes’ case, and the plot quickly descends into a series of naughty R-rated gags.
I assume that MacFarlane intended for this premise to come off as endearingly silly, but for a film about a teddy bear’s fight for civil rights, our supposedly lovably protagonist spends nearly the entire film berating everyone around him for laughs. He makes comments that can be viewed as racist, sexist and homophobic, yet nearly every character in the film finds him to be consistently charming, and it’s clear that MacFarlane wants us to think so too. However, not only does Ted jokingly compare his dilemma to the very real victimization that so many minorities face today, he shamelessly mocks them in the process. To say that this all made me feel a bit queasy would be an understatement.
Worst of all, MacFarlane doesn’t really care about these issues; he merely uses them for cheap shock value. The bare-bones plot is merely an excuse for stringing together as many vulgar jokes as possible, which would be fine if they were funny, but most of them are just juvenile and, worse, downright hateful. Even the slapstick in this film has an ugly streak to it, such as when our heroes throw apples at joggers and bikers for fun, or when a gay couple played by Patrick Warburton and Michael Dorn attend Comic-Con to beat the crap out of nerds, simply for being nerds. Seriously, these are hardly even jokes; it’s just flat-out bullying.
Don’t get me wrong, I love some gleefully offensive comedies, but there’s a certain tone you have to strike when tackling such racy material. Take Terry Zwigoff’s Bad Santa, for instance, in which Billy Bob Thornton’s disgustingly amoral conman drinks on the job, has sex with women in public dressing rooms and scolds every child who sits on his lap with four-letter words. It’s a filthy movie, but unlike Ted 2, Bad Santa, much like its protagonist, doesn’t pretend to be likable. In fact, it practically begs for you to hate it, almost as much as Thornton’s character hates himself, which only makes it funnier.
MacFarlane takes the opposite approach, wherein he believes this film can simultaneously be obscene and lovable. It’s a complete misfire, especially during the last twenty minutes or so when it aims for phony sentimentality. The emotional climax was the weakest aspect of the original, and it’s even worse this time around, because after all of the allegedly comic nastiness that ensues, MacFarlane still wants you to think that his film has a heart. If this film at least owned up to its cruel spirit, that would at least make it a little more digestible, but by supplying an ending comprised entirely of artificial schmaltz, it somehow makes the experience feel even more repugnant.
With a running time of 115-minutes, Ted 2 is ludicrously overlong, and practically feels like five uncensored episodes of Family Guy crazy-glued together. As proven with earlier episodes of that hit television series, MacFarlane has some comic chops, but once his ego kicks in, it seems as if he’s barely even trying anymore. This recent outing may not be as mind-numbingly awful as last year’s A Million Ways to Die in the West, but that’s basically the equivalent of saying getting kicked in the shin isn’t as bad as getting poked in the eye. Regardless, MacFarlane is the most self-congratulatory man working in comedy today, and with this film as proof, his shtick is only getting more obnoxious as time goes on.
Director: Seth McFarlane
Film Length: 115 minutes
Release Date: June 26, 2015
Distributor: Universal Pictures