Seth MacFarlane’s talking bear is back in Ted 2, an intermittently uproarious comedy that also features minutes-long dramatic sequences with nary a laugh, and lumbers to an ungainly 115-minute running time.
Still, most of the gags are good and they’re more creative than anything else you’ll see in mainstream comedies; an early kitchen argument between Ted and new bride Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth) is likely to confound many viewers, but anyone familiar with Raging Bull will be rolling in the aisles.
A brief cameo from Liam Neeson – who attempts to buy a box of Trix, despite commercial advertising that explicitly states that the breakfast cereal is only for kids – also drew an audible response from me.
It’s sequences like this that make Ted 2 perhaps funnier than – and at least an equal to – its predecessor, 2012’s Ted, which might have been shorter and tighter but not without its own storytelling issues.
While MacFarlane’s comedy is often irreverent, his plotting is decidedly formulaic; he recalls classic Hollywood musicals and comedies, but his storytelling could use a little more Marx Brothers madness. Last year’s Western parody A Million Ways to Die in the West was all over the map, though it had its moments, too.
Ted 2, however, at least takes things in an interesting direction. The first film took its premise – a teddy bear magically comes to life and becomes best friends with its owner John, played by Mark Wahlberg – and transformed it into a conventional bromance, but this one actually examines the situation’s real-world effects.
When Ted’s marriage to Tami-Lynn and subsequent adoption request raise some flags in Massachusetts, the state sends him a letter indicating that they don’t recognize his status as a human being. Ted isn’t going down without a fight, however, and inspired by civil rights battles from the past, he takes the state to court.
That results in a number of laughless scenes of courtroom debate, as a Hasbro-sponsored defense attorney (played by Mad Men’s John Slattery) level-headedly argues against the bear’s status, while Ted’s pot-smoking rookie lawyer Samantha (Amanda Seyfried) puts forth the bear’s side of things.
But while the majority of these scenes aren’t funny, they are at least interesting; the fantasy of Ted can serve as a stand-in for any number of potential real-life issues.
Giovanni Ribisi returns as Donny, the Ted-obsessed creep from the first film who wants a talking bear of his very own; here, too, he attempts to get his hands on Ted in a subplot that conveniently blends into the film’s climax.
Morgan Freeman briefly appears as the New York attorney Ted & co. go to for help. Patrick Warburton and Flash Gordon himself, Sam J. Jones, return from the previous film. A number of amusing cameos includes Tom Brady, Jay Leno, Dennis Haysbert, and others.
Ted 2’s amusing bits also include a ComiCon finale that litters the screen with pop culture references. That’s a good metaphor for McFarlane’s brand of comedy, but while the film has nods to The Breakfast Club, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, and other pop culture artifacts, it won me over with the Raging Bull and Busby Berkeley stuff. There isn’t much inherent comedy value in a lot of these gags, but sometimes an obscure reference is enough to bring a smile to your face.
And despite all of the crass material in Ted and this sequel – which includes a lot of drug use, language, anti-social behavior, and slapstick violence – there’s a refreshingly old-fashioned sweetness in the relationship between John and Ted; Wahlberg deserves a lot of credit for making this CGI creation feel like his best friend.
Ted 2 is, after all, a movie about a boy and his teddy bear. It’s just that the teddy bear is a sentient creature that deserves equal rights under the law.