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Barely Bearable

Universal Pictures
 115 Minutes
Rated: R
Directed by: Seth MacFarlane
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Seth MacFarlane 
Ted 2

Sometimes, a writer will come up with an idea so clever and innovative that people wonder why no one thought of it before. That happened in 2012, when Seth MacFarlane introduced the world to Ted, a movie about a child’s teddy bear come to life. Of course, animate children’s toys in live action films aren’t that uncommon—the Chucky doll comes immediately to mind. But Ted wasn’t a horror film or a warm friendly family film. Instead of being possessed by a demon, this teddy bear was possessed by the peculiar sensibilities of Seth MacFarlane, replete with a vocabulary that would put the most veteran sailor to shame.


What’s wildly creative the first time is far less so in a sequel—the Chucky doll comes immediately to mind. And along those same lines, Ted 2 lacks the creative spark of its predecessor. So, in order to come up with enough material for a two-hour movie, MacFarlane (who directed and co-wrote both films) takes the next step and gives Ted a more “human” storyline, replete with enough family issues to keep a dozen soap operas going. While many of the plot complications misfire, some of them spectacularly, the movie usually has something hilarious coming along every few minutes or so.


Ted 2 starts up a few months after the original ends with Ted going down the aisle with his beloved, Tami Lynn (Jessica Barth). After a few months of marriage, things aren’t going too well in the Ted household. He still has his job at the supermarket and hangs out with his dim bulb fellow stoner John (Mark Wahlberg), but his marriage is getting increasingly tense. So, Ted decides to start a family, and since teddy bears, animate or not, aren’t capable of fathering human children, he tries his luck at finding a sperm donor.


Unfortunately, his two attempts at finding surrogate fathers, Tom Brady and John, both fail spectacularly so Ted and Tami Lynn decide to adopt. Even more unfortunately, their application catches the eye of the State of Massachusetts, which tries to have Ted declared property. Ted decides to fight it out in court, but the only lawyer he can find to take his case is novice Samantha L. Jackson (Amanda Seyfried).


Jackson proves to be an inspired choice, first because her name allows Ted to utter the by now worn out punch line from the movie’s trailer about Samuel L. Jackson, second, because she seems to have an unlimited supply of primo pot she doesn’t mind sharing with Ted and John, and third, because she’s Amanda Seyfried and the obvious answer to John’s romantic funk. John has been in the dumps since his wife divorced him in the interim between the two movies (and, not coincidentally, Mila Kunis bailed out of Ted 2 due to pregnancy), and Ted thinks the new lawyer is the answer to both their problems.


Ted’s quest for personhood is the main plot device that drives the movie, but both MacFarlane and the characters deviate from it often. After some initial setbacks in court, Samantha decides to invoke the help of a big time attorney (Morgan Freeman), so she, Ted, and John go on a road trip (replete with detours that enable them to get stoned) to the Big Apple along the way. In fact, there are plenty of plot detours along the way as MacFarlane and his characters all seem to suffer from an advanced case of ADHD.

Frankly, it’s a good thing that the characters go on side trips and detours because the main plot line is one of the weakest in the movie. The question of debating the rights on a non-human often arises in legal circles and a similar dilemma to Ted’s was addressed in a serious manner in one of the best episodes of the old Outer Limits television series. However, the foul mouthed irreverent Ted is not the best client to have if an attorney is attempting to invoke the Dred Scott decision, nor is this the best movie to present such arguments. At best, the courtroom scenes were dull; at worst, patently offensive to people who wouldn’t blink an eye at a barrage of profanity and sex jokes.


The movie’s other attempts at seriousness don’t work well either. There’s an early scene in which Ted and Tami Lynn argue, culminating in her throwing a steak at him, that’s intentionally lifted from Raging Bull. It doesn’t work in large part because most viewers don’t understand the reference and those who, like myself, did understand it, didn’t find it funny merely because a talking teddy bear tried to channel Robert De Niro.


The latter scene shows one of MacFarlane’s strengths and weaknesses as well. He has a seemingly endless knowledge of pop culture he can incorporate in the film. Often this works (the title sequence, played perfectly straight, in which a cadre of dancers, with Ted as their lead, perform a Busby Berkeley routine, in brilliant), but it’s often merely head scratching or worse. Setting the climax at Comic-Con, where the evil minion (Giovanni Ribisi thanklessly reprising his role from the first film) of Hasbro Toys tries to kidnap Ted, allows MacFarlane a cornucopia of sight gags. The big payoff has Patrick Warburton and Michael Dorn, playing a gay couple who are friends of Ted, showing up dressed as the Tick and Lt. Worf. Those who understand this last sentence will appreciate the joke. However, having Warburton repeatedly knock down the various nerds he encounters is tiresome the first time it occurs, much less the fourth.


Still, I confess I enjoyed Ted 2 on balance. Simply put, when MacFarlane is funny, he’s hilarious. Because of the crude nature of the jokes, I can’t tell many of them. But one of the few I can at least describe occurs when Samantha supplies Ted and John with a bong that looks like a male sexual organ. They have to compare their desperation to get high with their sense of homophobia. Other clever, non-crude jokes involve dressing Ted in Paddington rain gear in one scene and comparing Amanda Seyfried’s eyes to those of Gollum.


Ted 2 is a movie of extremes. When it’s funny, it’s side splitting. When it’s not, it’s agonizing. The test for me was whether enough of the movie passed without something funny occurring to make me uncomfortable, and it didn’t. Each bad scene was followed reasonably quickly with something that broke any potential tension. I wish Seth MacFarlane spent more time thinking about some of his jokes before letting them fly, but as a whole, the movie was funnier than a lot of the so-called comedies, especially the more adult comedies, that pass through theaters today.

Read other reviews of Ted 2:


Ted 2 (2015) on IMDb