You’d expect jokes about semen and hot chicks from Seth MacFarlane’s “Ted 2,” the sequel to his 2012 bros-will-be-bears comedy. What you probably wouldn’t expect is a plot that explicitly touches on gay marriage and the Dred Scott decision. Now married to the first film’s Jessica Barth, Ted, a CGI teddy bear voiced and mo-capped by MacFarlane, is looking to start a family, but since his wife’s drug use has rendered her infertile and — oh yeah — he lacks a penis, they need to adopt, which leads to a court battle over whether or not he is, in fact, a person. That’s after Mark Wahlberg’s perpetually immature Southie dude has knocked over a rack of sperm samples at the clinic, mind. MacFarlane’s attempts at offending can be more calculated than they are inspired — too soon for jokes about Charlie Hebdo and Robin Williams’ suicide? Not here — but “Ted 2” hits more than it misses, according to the first wave of reviews. MacFarlane’s core fans don’t much care about subtlety — they’re probably still cracking up over “We Saw Your Boobs” — but for those who found the first “Ted” a rare oasis in his otherwise charmless oeuvre, it sounds like the sequel is both more and less of the same.
Reviews of “Ted 2”
Scott Foundas, Variety
The magical teddy bear with the heart of gold and the mouth of potty is back in “Ted 2″,” and so is writer-director-star Seth MacFarlane’s mischievous mojo, which went missing somewhere in last year’s mirthless comic Western “A Million Ways to Die in the West.” A sequel to MacFarlane’s surprise 2013 smash ($549 million worldwide), “Ted 2” is surely the last movie one would expect to find quoting from the anthropologist Dawn Prince-Hughes’ writings on the essence of human consciousness. But in its own, sweetly subversive way, this might be just the tolerance plea America needs right now — a movie that says, in effect, “Love thy plushie as thyself.” Fret not: Such high-mindedness has little diminished MacFarlane’s appetite for locker-room humor, gross-out sight gags and bounteous pop-culture in-jokes. Both “Ted” movies are, ultimately, one-joke affairs rooted in the idea of taking some emblem of childhood innocence and vulgarizing it (like Stewie, the nefarious infant from MacFarlane’s “Family Guy” series). That joke, though, turns out to be a resilient one, and the chemistry between Wahlberg and MacFarlane is infectiously puerile, whether they’re playing an ill-conceived game of catch in a sperm bank’s storage room or shouting out “sad suggestions” during a night of improv comedy.
Frank Scheck, Hollywood Reporter
Ted’s Boston-accented zingers are expertly delivered by the director/star, whose voice talent is undeniable, and Wahlberg again demonstrates that he’s skilled at comedy — no small feat considering that he’s working with a CGI character — agreeably playing the straight man and happily throwing himself into his physical shtick. The appealingly laid-back Seyfried proves adept as well, easily holding her own with her co-stars as Samantha inevitably becomes a love interest for John. The real love story, of course, is the bromance between John and Ted, with the characters’ loosey-goosey interactions, including harmonizing to the Law & Order theme song complete with made-up lyrics, providing the film’s funniest moments. Their relationship will no doubt deepen even further in the inevitable third installment.
Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
I laughed three or four times, mostly at verbal byplay since director MacFarlane struggles when it comes to timing, filming and cutting sight gags, many of them (including the accident at the fertility clinic) straight out of his cash cow “Family Guy.” There’s a riff on F. Scott Fitzgerald that works mysteriously well. The Liam Neeson cameo does, too. A lyric interlude, featuring Seyfried singing an original tune (“Mean Ol’ Moon”) written by MacFarlane and composer Walter Murphy, resurrects the old joke about woodland creatures cooing over the female protagonist’s musical charms: When the lobster rolls up with the raccoon and the fawn, it’s just stupid enough to click. The rest of the movie, eh.
Stephanie Zacharek, Village Voice
As comedy masterminds go, MacFarlane is a strange success story: He amassed a healthy following with “Family Guy,” and if “Ted” hadn’t been such a huge hit, there wouldn’t be a “Ted 2.” But MacFarlane isn’t walking on easy street: Most critics hated his oddball western-comedy hybrid, “A Million Ways to Die in the West,” with its gonzo elliptical jokes. And many will never forgive him for the “We Saw Your Boobs” number at the 2013 Oscars, obviously intended as a jab at the crass sixth-grade-level taste and inarticulateness of male moviegoers but instead interpreted as the most heinous example of it. MacFarlane’s misfire elicited lots of wailing along the lines of, “Instead of celebrating the talent of these women, he’s insulting them by reducing them to body parts!” But face it: Singing, “Hail, women of Hollywood — we recognize your vast accomplishments, and we salute you!” just wouldn’t have had the same ring to it. MacFarlane’s “Boobs” number suggests that he knows exactly what the women of Hollywood are up against, not that he’s blind to it. Comedy needs to push boundaries — how else can it get our attention? Even if MacFarlane sometimes pushes in what we perceive as the wrong direction, do we really want him, or anyone, to stop?
Dan Callahan, The Wrap
MacFarlane draws many comparisons between Ted’s legal plight and the plight of African-Americans under slavery and one comparison about the plight of gay people trying to win civil rights in this day and age. Though MacFarlane makes obsessive jokes about blacks and gays, most of them are unexpected, sharp, and layered, so that they don’t merely prompt knee-jerk offense. MacFarlane very clearly wants to be taken seriously as a progressive liberal for long stretches of “Ted 2″,” but maybe even this is just a cynical pose. There are some good laughs in this movie, as opposed to the bad laughs, the lame laughs and those non-laughs at Comic Con. But bad taste needs to be more honest and more all-inclusive if it’s to make a lasting impression, and MacFarlane’s bad taste here is both too wishy-washy and too knee-jerk cruel to really make any impact.
Graham Fuller, Screen Daily
As a calculatedly obnoxious button-pusher, “Ted 2” goes further beyond the pale in a scene set in an improv comedy club where rowdy patrons bait the performers to act out 9/11, the Charlie Hebdo massacre, and “Robin Williams”, an unambiguous reference to the actor’s suicide. MacFarlane and his collaborators might argue that gallows humour relieves the pain induced by the daily diet of depressing news and is a salve for bleeding-heart liberalism, but their jokes at the expense of those who have suffered grievously seem like cheap shots. (The 9/11 reference may be MacFarlane’s obtuse way of dealing with his and Wahlberg’s narrowly missing Flight 11 from Boston’s Logan Airport that day.) Similarly, the attempt to give Ted’s existence political significance by aligning his “property” status with that of America’s enslaved Africans and their descendants comes across as glib in the extreme.
Jordan Hoffman, Guardian
There’s not much cinematic in “Ted 2”. It’s shot like flat television, but a lot of dough surely went into the animation of the lifelike bear. And it’s that level of perfectionism that makes some of these offensive jokes acceptable. There’s an undercurrent of goading our outrage that reaches its zenith when Ted and company decide to celebrate the only way they know how: by going to an improv comedy show and shouting inappropriate suggestions. It’s here where we get cinema’s first Charlie Hebdo joke, and the audience I saw it with was half-shocked, half in stitches. But I’d like to think that if any organization would stand for this no-prisoners attitude, Charlie Hebdo would be it.
Lindsey Bahr, Associated Press
The misadventures of a couple of crass knuckleheads should be simple fun, and it’s quite all right to try for a more substantive story in something so trivial. But the silliness of the first has ceded to something that’s also a little more hateful and bitter. Ted and John should’ve stayed on the couch and out of the courtroom.