Ted 2 begins with Ted (MacFarlane) marrying his girlfriend from the first film, Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth). His best friend, John (Mark Wahlberg), has been divorced for six months because Mila Kunis was pregnant at the time of filming and then written out of the movie. A year later, Ted and Tami-Lynn are having marital problems and on the suggestion of his stereotype as co-worker, Joy (Cocoa Brown), Ted and Tami-Lynn decide to have a baby to fix their relationship—because that always works. When they go to adopt, the red flag of Ted’s legal status pops up and he has to sue the government for his rights to be considered a living person. John and Ted land a novice attorney in Samantha Jackson (Amanda Seyfried), who has zero issue with toking up in a consultation meeting with new clients because she gets migraines. Wait, she smokes weed and she’s pretty? I smell a forced romance for John since he literally has nothing else to do in this film. Meanwhile, Donny (Giovanni Ribisi)—the villain from the first film—has taken a janitorial job at toy company Hasbro. He hatches a plan with toy exec Tom Jessup (John Carroll Lynch) to kidnap Ted once he loses his case and is deemed property. Then they can “cut Ted open to see what makes him special” and then use that information to make more Teds to sell. The problem with this plan is, Donny already sliced Ted open in the last film and he knows what’s inside—cotton. It all leads up, somehow, to New York Comic Con, which becomes the best sequence in the film thanks to Patrick Warburton and Michael Dorn.
Like in his last “film,” MacFarlane proves himself to be one of the laziest writers in Hollywood. A lot of the jokes in Ted 2 are lowest common denominator hack work, but I admit, I’m not a big fan of stoner humor, so maybe I don’t “get” a lot of what he’s doing here. There are some inspired bits here and there, but there is way too much legwork to get to the good jokes and that bogs the film down. I was actually bored throughout most of it. However, the comedy—or lack thereof—is not the primary reason why I classify MacFarlane as a lazy writer. He’s a lazy writer because he just expects the audience to accept what he’s written with no reason or logic. Ted is a walking, talking teddy bear and I can believe that—I can buy into that without question. But, as a writer, when you deal with magic, you have to know the rules of how that magic works, especially when the villain’s main goal is to figure out how that magic works. How can Donny figure out what makes Ted tick when Seth MacFarlane doesn’t even know? From the first film, we know that Ted is filled with cotton like a normal teddy bear. He didn’t gain bones or organs or any of the bits that other living creatures have. So, how can Ted get drunk, get high, eat food, etc.? Where does it all go? If they had cut Ted open and found booze-soaked cotton inside, that would have been funny, that would have been inspired. Instead, MacFarlane just presents us with “talking teddy bear,” and proceeds to make him an asshole. That’s funny, of course, but when the plot starts veering into how this all works, the writer needs to know the answer and it’s clear MacFarlane does not.
Without even taking into account the completely fantastical Ted, there is zero believability in this film. I can accept Ted as he is, but there is no internal logic to this film simply on a script level. Things just happen in a sequence and we’re to blindly accept that they flow together correctly—they don’t. I’ve already touched on Sam’s completely unbelievable behavior, but the character of Donny is elevated to Boba Fett levels of competence in his tracking skills. At one point, Ted, John, and Sam get lost in the country on their way to New York to meet with a prestigious lawyer (Morgan Freeman). When they finally get to the city the next day, Ted and John have a fight and Ted wanders off to Comic Con. Donny is there, tracking him, but how did he find him? They were lost for a whole night in the middle of nowhere. It’s a key plot point that MacFarlane and his team just flat-out ignore.
There is also still a lack of wonderment, which was also missing from the first film. No one reacts to seeing Ted for the first time. In fact, one character sincerely delivers the line, “Weren’t you that talking teddy bear?” I’m not saying everyone has to fall all over themselves when they see Ted, but compare this to Chris Rock’s Top Five where, subtly, there is a reference to his character’s most famous role whenever he steps out in public, (“Hey, Hammy!”). MacFarlane can’t do this because he doesn’t know what subtlety is.
Like A Million Ways to Die in the West, Ted 2 represents MacFarlane’s worst tendencies as a director to the point that the film becomes self-indulgent. At the start, there is an opening song and dance number like they had during the golden age of Hollywood. The performance is probably five minutes, but it feels like twenty and no joke follows after it to justify its presence in the film. It felt like MacFarlane was trying to get another shot as hosting the Oscars. The sad part about all this terribleness is that Ted 2 actually has a good message about acceptance, but MacFarlane chooses to beat us over the head with it.
I never thought I’d ever say this, but Mark Wahlberg is wasted in this film. John becomes a complete side character after being the lead in the last film. MacFarlane tries to force a love story on him to keep him relevant, but honestly, this film could have easily been about Ted and his new friend “Tom.” Even better, put Tami-Lynn in Wahlberg’s scenes and have her and Ted work out their marital issues for comic effect. Barth does fine in the role, but she’s mostly there for looks. She has half a moment when she and Ted have their blowout where she almost says, “Why the fuck did I marry a teddy bear?” but that would have called for too much character development. Seyfried is also in a thankless role as the straight woman to John and Ted’s antics, but they at least find time for her to sing a song—that’s sarcasm, this movie is long enough without it. John Slattery is the government attorney in Ted’s way, but he’s not even half a villain, he’s in this thing so briefly. No, the real winners here are Warburton and Dorn. Their behavior at Comic Con is flat-out hilarious. Dennis Haysbert and Liam Neeson also put in funny cameos, while Flash Gordon himself Sam J. Jones gets his chance to shine again.
While Ted 2 has some funny moments and a nice message, overall it’s a poorly paced and painfully unfunny film. The message of understanding is wielded like a sledgehammer and the lack of any real internal logic prevents the film from being truly hilarious. Skip it and go see SPY instead.