Everyone’s favorite thunder buddy is back! Is “Ted 2” a worthy follow-up?

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ted 2 featured image

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Ted 2

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Hey, what’s up, everyone! Guess who’s back after a super long hiatus? That’s right. Ted the bear has finally returned to the big screen in a new adventure! Can you believe it has been over three years since our last marathon of pot and fart jokes? Way too long if you ask me. If the studio had any smarts, they would have tentpoled this franchise with origin stories of other toys that magically came to life and then reunite them all into a mega comedy blockbuster. Where is Slappy, Corduroy, Buzz Lightyear, Pinocchio, Chucky, and Little Bear? That would have been enough for six movies in the time they took to create one! Come on, Seth MacFarlane! Have you learned nothing from Marvel? Get with the program!

In truth, I was actually skeptical and a little disappointed once “Ted 2” was announced to be in production. Not because I didn’t enjoy the first movie. I found it to be a refreshing change of pace from writer/director Seth MacFarlane’s animated comedy fare despite carrying over a few trademarks, and I still catch myself humming the thunder song whenever Mother Nature has one of her temper tantrums. What troubled me was how the announcement came so quick after MacFarlane’s previous live-action effort “A Million Ways to Die in the West” was projected to flop. Although the western failed to attract a wide audience and had a handful of issues, I still commended MacFarlane and his crew for continuing efforts to present something a little different than what we’ve come to expect from raunchy mainstream comedies. “Ted 2” getting produced and distributed less than a year later smelled of the studio getting their flawed “no-risks” mentality validated and eagerness to revert back to the safer options.

From a certain creative standpoint, “Ted 2” doesn’t have a reason to exist. It doesn’t advance any stories or characters from the previous entry and many of the gags are as strong as their topicality. But what it does have is an incredible storm of luck on its side. On the same day as the movie’s release, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that same-sex marriage licenses were officially legal to obtain in all fifty states. It was the landmark ruling the country’s LGBT community had been waiting for. One such outspoken supporter for the gay rights movement was Seth MacFarlane himself. As the promotional trailers would reveal, Ted 2 was crafted as a vehicle for MacFarlane’s take on the matter. The result was one of the best-timed mainstream movies in history.

“Ted 2’s” story begins with what should be a happy ending, but is really the first cloud of a storm. Ted (Seth MacFarlane though the magic of motion capture) weds his grocery store co-worker and girlfriend Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth) in a ceremony conducted by their buddy Sam Jones. Ted is on Cloud 9, but his best friend John (Mark Wahlberg) is down in the dumps. John divorced his wife Laurie sometime between the events of the two films and now isn’t as interested in the party and dating scene as he once was. It’s not long until Ted starts to feel the burnout himself, depicted in a darkly hilarious scene where every unhappy marriage cliche in the book gets thrown onto the screen. He then takes someone’s suggestion to become a father – a theoretical solution to rediscovering the love he has for his wife.

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No toy testicles means no reproducing activities with Tami-Lynn is possible, so Ted pursues some alternate options such as adoption and stealing sperm from NFL quarterback Tom Brady (one of several celebrities who demonstrate great sportsmanship with their cameos – Liam Neeson’s being the best). Tragedy strikes as a result of Ted’s legal inquiries. When his dormant citizenship status resurfaces, the legal requests are rejected under the pretense that Ted isn’t a person. Not only is he unqualified for child custody, his marriage to Tami-Lynn is null and void.

Ted and John decide to appeal the ruling in Massachusetts court. Their low budget forces the pair to settle for a less experienced and reputable lawyer, but someone perfectly up their alley: an attractive weed-smoking twenty-six year old woman named Samantha Jackson (Amanda Seyfried).

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Samantha fails to win appeal for her client, but stays on as an ally. Next stop – New York City to find a new lawyer for federal appeal. From here until the final courtroom sequence, the movie takes a break from political satire to deliver the brand of stomach-pain laughs that is expected. If you can’t stand Family Guy humor, there’s nothing to see here. If on the other hand, frequent pop culture spoofs (Jurassic Park!), cutaway gags (remember that one time when?) far-out marijuana names (“This Is Permanent”), beer fights (Wham!) shock humor (prepare yourself for the first big “Robin Williams is dead” joke of the century), protagonists behaving like assholes (throwing fruit at joggers) and rapid-fire exchanges (We could totally be lawyers!”) sounds like your idea of a good time, Ted 2 is more than worth the while.

The zaniness is at its peak when the gang encounters an old foe at New York Comic-Con – a gold mine setting for MacFarlane and frequent writing collaborators Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild to salute every fandom worth being vaguely familiar with. It’s the MacFarlane & Co. wheelhouse, it’s predictable, but it’s still fun.

Yet the heart of the content lies with how the story wants us to view Ted as a character after his mission is over. From afar, the premise could easily look like a disservice to the Human Rights Campaign as well as fuel for their critics’ “What’s next? Humans marrying their pets?” narrative. But to still see Ted as a bear or a pet is to miss the point. The plot pushes to build Ted with human traits. He’s able to love, not in the way a dog loves his master, but the way a husband loves his wife. Having died once before, he’s able to recognize his own mortality. He can slam a six-pack of Bud in the morning. Can YOUR dog slam a six-pack in the morning? (For God’s sake, that was rhetorical.) In short, he is a person who happens to be in the form of a stuffed bear. If one can rally behind a stuffed bear winning his basic human rights, how can the same individual not support an actual person acquiring the same thing? Chances are that very thing has already happened countless times over the past weekend. That’s the moment the hypnotist got their eyes right where he wanted them.

“You’re screwing me like you’re screwing the fags, I mean homos!” screams Ted as he hears the state’s verdict. I suppose that was MacFarlane’s way of conceding that some of his audience might be too unsophisticated to detect his message. But by doing that, he doesn’t give his own characters enough credit. Ted’s buddy John always knew from the get-go that his bear was more than a bear. Less than thirty minutes into this movie, he is drenched in rejected semen. The defense rests.

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Score Board

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Topicality: 10 (out of 10)

Jokes landed percentage: 77%

Leftover beers from Ted’s bachelor party: 1 (the same bottle of Miller 64 leftover from the previous party)

Comic-Con knocked unconscious body count: 26

9/11 mentions: 3

Improv actors heckled off stage: 4

Jogger casualties: 2

Candy bowls accidentally left out on an office desk: 2

Times the good guys broke the law: 15

NFL quarterbacks narrowly avoiding sexual assault (How’s that for a switcheroo?): 1

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Overall: 7 (out of 10)

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ted 2 poster

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