Last week Pixar reminded us that big crowd-pleasing summer movies could actually come laced with subtext and moral lessons greater than their superficial entertainment value. This week we get a sequel to a Seth MacFarlane comedy about a pot-smoking teddy bear. So, now we’re back to normal. Yep, summer movie season isn’t about filmmakers striving for art or audiences testing their brainpower. It’s about celebrating the biggest and dumbest aspects of the American entertainment machine and few people are better suited to carry that flag than Seth MacFarlane. Once a cult figure whose TV series Family Guy was cancelled as resurrected from the dead (now common practice. Thanks, Netflix!), MacFarlane is now simultaneously one of the most popular and loathed figures in the comedy community. The reason for both of those extreme reactions is simple: MacFarlane only cares about jokes and laughs. Everything else is secondary. If you find him funny, enjoy Ted 2! If not, well you already know you’ll hate it, now don’t you?
So, the whole gang returns minus Mila Kunis who is barely mentioned despite being the only reason that any of the characters did anything last time (ah well…). Things kick off with Ted (MacFarlane doing his Peter Griffin voice) getting married to his cashier love interest (Jessica Barth). Cut to a few months later and the couple are fighting so viciously and consistently that they decide to have a kid to save their marriage (always the healthiest entry point to parenthood). Unfortunately, Ted has no genitalia so he can’t knock the girl up. So, Ted and his bestest buddy Mark Wahlberg try a few alternatives like stealing sperm from an NFL star and slip-sliding through a sperm bank before finally settling onto adoption. Unfortunately, that doesn’t go well because Ted isn’t human and that ends up being a red flag that costs him his human rights. To get them sweet things back, Marky Mark and Ted team up with a young pothead lawyer (Amanda Seyfried) to go on a road trip, meet Morgan Freeman, engage in way too many sincere speeches about what it means to be human, and crack a lil’ wise. Of course, if you’ve seen any Seth MacFarlane flick before, you’ll know that none of that actually matters. The plot is just a clothesline for jokes and there are some good ones.
All of the humor comes straight out of the standardized MacFarlane playbook. You like pop culture references? Get ready for scenes lifted from Jurassic Park and The Breakfast Club, countless reference one-liners, and eventually a trip to Comic-Con. Do you like celebrity cameos? Well, you’ll get a steady stream of great ones, the best of which involves Liam Neeson and a box of cereal. How do you feel about swearing? Well then buckle the fuck up. Perhaps you enjoy offensive cultural references? Good because everything from Bill Cosby and 9/11 to racial slurs and slightly satirical stereotypes appear. Don’t worry, bodily fluids and functions all make pop up and shoot out as well. Yep, it’s all of MacFarlane’s stock n’ trade staples (including his confusingly sincere obsession with old timey musicals that never seems to register with anyone other than him). When the final tallies are in, Ted 2 will likely have the highest joke count of any movie slammed onto screens this summer. Obviously not all of them work, but enough land to make the whole big dumb endeavor worth your ten bucks. Sure, the movie isn’t technically about anything nor do any of the characters represent anything close to a human being. But some comedies are just about laugh count and as long as the count runs high, it’s hard to complain.
It has to be said that Wahlberg often just feels like a prop this time around. He still gets some laughs, but Ted is definitely the main character and Mark is just there to provide a bantering partner. At times you can’t help but wonder if the script was written in such a way that Wahlberg could be dropped if he didn’t want in or wanted too much money. That’s a shame because he’s got some chops, but he at least gets a few moments to show em off and the supporting cast carries enough cameos to keep the giggles coming. Almost every big joke from the last movie gets a callback and thankfully they normally deliver the goods rather than merely reminding audiences of the better movie that they could be watching instead. Ted 2 is about as insubstantial as comedies get, but at least it never pretends to be anything other than that. This is a stoner CGI teddy comedy sequel after all. It was never going to be art nor was it designed to appeal to everyone. However, for the numbskulls like myself who enjoyed Ted enough to demand another round, it should give you exactly what you want. No more, no less. It is what it is and it’s pretty good at being what it is. Great semen slapstick too.