I might as well come out forthright and say it. “Ted 2,” Seth MacFarlane’s potty-mouthed sequel to an original I refrained from indulging in first time around, fell pretty short of passing the Bechdel Test. Despite its featuring at least two women, and two integral leading ladies at that — the magic teddy’s human wife Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth) and pothead lawyer-to-be Sam[antha] L. Jackson (Amanda Seyfried) — the women do not speak to each other about anything besides a man. But did I ever expect the bro de force follow-up from the man who recently brought us “A Million Ways to Die in the West” to challenge convention, probe progressive gender dynamics, or even grant us a millisecond where the principal chick does other than abidingly serve as sidekick-cum-love interest? Nah.
Instead, I did my best to try and sit back, relax, and place myself among the carefree minds that comprised the positive turnout of viewers who joined me for that late Tuesday night screening — in particular, the rowdy missus front-and-center who, on cue with each crude punchline, tossed her head up in a shameless guffaw and smacked her palms to the nearest surface. If it could work for her, drunk or lowbrowed or whatever, I could force this stuffed toy tale to work for me.
From the get-go I found “Ted 2” to be unexpectedly topical. The introductory shot sees the camera sweep down from the clouds and in through the stained glass of a steeple, to close in on the wedding of Tami-Lynn and her bear beau — the narrator remarking that, when it comes to modern marriage, “America doesn’t give a shit about anything.” Whatever conspiring between Hollywood and the Supreme Court saw to it that the film’s release date coincided with the same-sex constitutional right to wed is beyond me, because the timing is a bit uncanny.
So “Ted 2,” in all its offensively raunchy glory, plays out as a quest for universal rights — for men and Hasbro products alike. As a desperate means to rescue their failing union a year since tying the knot, and being one-half stuffed bear lacking the organs to impregnate his wife, Ted and Tami-Lynn try their paws at adoption. In the process they discover the government refuses to acknowledge the eponymous bear as a rights-bearing citizen, so with the help of thunder bud John (Mark Wahlberg) and legal pro Sam, the film turns into a marijuana-addled courtroom drama. Suing the state for right to personhood, at one point Ted (whose voice remains identical to “Family Guy’s” Peter Griffin) bursts out: “This is exactly what you been doin’ to the fags… Sorry, the homos!” That’s one appearance of several queer jabs in the movie, charged by something between an attempt to put a casual spin on gay stereotypes à la “Neighbors,”(read this) and borderline homosexual panic.
Most of the ha-has roam in fairly safe territory, assigning the insecure leading men as the brunt of them. Touring an insemination clinic, Marky Mark slips and knocks over shelves of rejected semen, toppling to the floor drenched in milky-white cum; Ted snaps a pic on his phone and uploads it with the hashtag #GrrMonday. This sperm bank excursion, however, only had to occur once Wahlberg hesitated to jerk off his sleeping hero, Mr. Tom Brady, to procure his male fluids — out of fear the handjob wouldn’t be up to par. John gets back at his buddy, later, when he sneaks a photo of Ted smoking a penis-shaped bong and hashtags it off into the webosphere. Satire or not, this is college dorm room culture perpetuated: where hacking an individual’s Facebook to fake them out of the closet is the be-all end-all of embarrassment and humor.
Sometimes the comedy veers into the less kind-hearted, including a running gag where every Google search links to “Did you mean? black cocks,” and a discovery of John’s plethoric porno folders overrun with ‘chicks with dicks’ videos — in response to which Wahlberg’s character breaks down and confesses he has a disease, before being aided by good ol’ Teddy to go to lengths to destroy his laptop to ensure his horny misadventures never see the light of day. Whether MacFarlane is laughing at or with the LGBT and black communities in unfortunate quips like these, or the one where a black woman gives a facetious backstory of slavery, remains unknown.
The “Ted” movies are an incognizable phenomena with a target audience I’m not so sure I fall into, and thus perhaps I’m not so qualified to judge them. I certainly won’t defend them either, because after all this effort to affront our inner PC sensitivity, the effect induced is little more than the urge to groan. Produced by bros for other bros, “Ted 2” likely achieves what it was aiming for without, I’ll admit, forfeiting rare moments of charm. For instance: a break and enter scene where our plush protagonist adorably dons a yellow Paddington Bear rain suit. I only wish the laughs looked more like this than the cutaway to Ted on a street corner, employed in cheap drag, calling out to Boston’s passing rights-bearing citizens: “Get your BJs here!”