Film review: Fur flies in Ted 2 as Seth MacFarlane’s bear faces courtroom fight

The sequel to Ted unravels as the cuddly comedy gets more serious.

Ted, the straight-talking teddy bear voiced by Seth MacFarlane, becomes unstitched in Ted 2. Courtesy Universal Pictures
Powered by automated translation

Ted 2

Director: Seth MacFarlane

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Seth MacFarlane, Amanda Seyfried

Two stars

Ted 2 asks a question that we never needed, or particularly wanted, to know the answer to: is Ted, the magical, foul-mouthed teddy bear, a person in the eyes of the law?

While it’s unfair to judge a comedy simply for a ridiculous premise, here it also happens to be the unlikely killer of the overstuffed sequel. And resolution does not come quickly enough in this nearly two-hour rumination on civil rights and abject stupidity.

Part of the charm of Ted, writer-director Seth MacFarlane's better-than-it-should-have-been story of a grown man and his sentient stuffed animal, was how unaffectedly it treated its talking teddy. Ted just is. No one thinks too hard about the how or why of it.

Combining that silly foundation with Mark Wahlberg’s endearingly dopey intensity was a stroke of brilliance. The movie was allowed to only be about their friendship, and it worked.

Making a sequel to an original comedy is always a tough prospect. More often than not, the desire to please fans and recreate the magic of the original produces nothing more than an exaggerated rehash.

In an admirable effort to go down a different route, MacFarlane has instead done something hopelessly bizarre: he has given his film too much sincerity and story, which practically crushes whatever fun exists.

This time, we meet up with Ted (voiced again by MacFarlane) at his wedding to fellow ­grocery-store clerk and gum-smacking bombshell Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth). Their newly-wed bliss soon curdles, however, and they decide to have a baby to save the marriage.

Because the natural way of ­going about this is not an option, Tami-Lynn and Ted decide to try adoption. It’s then that a state authority steps in and asks whether or not a stuffed animal, sentient or not, should be afforded the rights of a human.

Very quickly, Ted loses his job, his marriage is invalidated and audiences are forced to endure a horrifying ordeal: that of watching a whiny, self-righteous Ted.

Then Ted and his best friend John (Wahlberg), now a sad-sack divorcee, hook up with Samantha Jackson (Amanda Seyfried), a rookie lawyer who is willing to take their case pro bono, and a few montages later, they’re off to fight the good fight – in excruciating detail.

Seriously, there are almost-interesting debates over Ted's humanity and a few fairly earnest references to the 13th Amendment and Dred Scott, an African-American slave who unsuccessfully launched a legal battle for freedom for his family in the 1840s and 1850s. It's a wonder Ted 2 didn't also venture into artificial intelligence territory.

Still, it's very rare for a MacFarlane venture to be completely unfunny. Even A Million Ways to Die in the West had its moments. The highlights in Ted 2 are almost worth it. There's a Busby Berkeley-style opening number, a fantastic Liam Neeson cameo, a riff on what the F stands for in F Scott Fitzgerald, a Jurassic Park bit and a few other gems.

There's even an over-the-top fight at New York ComicCon (with more than a few Transformers robots peppering the background, though it is unclear whether that is poking fun at Wahlberg's association with the franchise or promoting it). The sequence had some promise, in spite of the vitriol fuelling the joke, but it's all too late.

MacFarlane continues to be a unique, and probably misunderstood, artist in popular culture. His venomous humour, basic moral code, crass sensibilities and fondness for classic showmanship are, at the very least, an interesting combination for a modern entertainer. But they haven’t quite meshed yet, at least on film.

The misadventures of a couple of crass knuckleheads should be simple fun. 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 have stayed on the couch and out of the courtroom.