Ted 2 (2015) Film Review: A Stuffed Bear With a Beating Heart?

Seth MacFarlane’s brand of comedy is well known. From his small screen excursions with Family Guy and American Dad, to his silver screen directorial work like How to Make it in the West and the original Ted movie, we’ve come to know what to expect from his writing.

ted 2-170452Ted 2 isn’t a departure from MacFarlane’s comedy format. His foul-mouthed talking teddy bear is still crass, and perpetually high. Mark Wahlberg’s performance is much the same too and the movie doesn’t add to Macfarlane’s legacy – it does however let us revisit our slacker duo from the original film.

Times have changed in Ted 2. The movie opens with Ted getting married to Tami-Lynn, and the revelation that John (Wahlberg) has gone through a difficult divorce. The narrative then jumps forward one year into the future. Ted and Tammi-Lynn aren’t happily married, they argue frequently, and both work dead end jobs and struggle to make ends meet.

Life isn’t great for John either. He has a problematic relationship with porn, his laptop is riddled with dirty movies, and Ted convinces John to smash his laptop to pieces and dump it in the Boston harbour. This sequence is used as a narrative device to remind audiences that John needs a girlfriend.

For Ted and Tammi-Lynn, their answer to their marital problems is to have a child. But Ted, being a stuffed bear, doesn’t have the necessary body parts to impregnate his wife so help must be found elsewhere. Ted asks close friends first, then when that doesn’t materialise, he pursues adoption through legal channels.

Teddy Bears Aren’t Human

Things go from bad to worse as it becomes clear that the state doesn’t recognise Ted as human, instead they see him as property. Legally this means that Ted cannot have a bank account, he can’t be a father, and his marriage with Tami-Lynn is nullified. Ted loses his job, and all at once his life falls apart.

In an effort to rectify Ted’s problems John, Tammi-Lynn, and Ted visit a high powered lawyer but they can’t afford his fees. Instead they’re represented by a young female lawyer called Samantha (Amanda Seyfried), and she quickly becomes a potential love interest for John.

From there the narrative progresses as expected. There are a number of funny moments, the relationship between John and Ted provides a good backdrop for the events that transpire, and some bigger societal and political themes emerge. In amongst the toilet humour pertinent questions of identity and personhood are posed.

But that’s not to say that Ted 2 is a smart, or particularly prescient film. It’s not even that funny, but for audiences looking for some escapism MacFarlane’s movie isn’t a bad place to start. There are some notable celebrity appearances and the film relies heavily on pop culture comments and references.

Amanda Seyfried in 'Ted 2'
Amanda Seyfried in ‘Ted 2’

For all of its charm, and attempts at discussing bigger themes, MacFarlane’s Ted 2 struggles with its female characters and they have little in the way of autonomy. Amanda Seyfried’s Samantha is the least developed character. She smokes weed in her office, she plays guitar, and her sexy persona only exists to provide John with a narrative.

In fact that’s another problem with the film. John’s story is underdeveloped, serving mostly as a foil for Ted. This is Ted’s movie this time round and unfortunately all of the other characters are relegated to passivity.

Tammi-Lynn has virtually no role in Ted 2; she quickly becomes a person on the other end of the phone as Ted embarks on a series of adventures. Her relationship with Ted takes the form of a nagging wife, then as a mother figure.

A Meta Pop Culture Story

But for fans of Seth MacFarlane and his brand of offensive humour Ted 2 does provide some laughs. Ted and John have fun ribbing Samantha on her lack of popular culture knowledge – she’s never seen Rocky. And this provides some good context for the later scenes at comic con.

There’s a scene towards the middle of the film that does work well. Ted, Samantha, and John are driving to New York City to meet a high-powered civil rights lawyer. It’s late at night and they let Ted drive and he promptly nearly kills the trio in a car crash.

When they emerge from their car however they realise that they’ve stumbled upon a field of weed (not dreams) and the Jurassic Park theme music swells. It’s not quite the Lost World, but for them their discovery is more awe-inspiring than a herd of dinosaurs.

Ted 2 lacks smarts, there are few belly laughs, but there is an emotive heart. It’s a story of friendship, often decidedly masculine, and it does raise some important questions about the way that we treat anyone deemed ‘other.’ It seems that in an effort to prove that Ted isn’t human, MacFarlane has pointedly suggested that we don’t know what makes any of us human.

But any social commentary is negated by the imagery that MacFarlane uses to tell his tale. There’s John’s unfortunate experience at a sperm bank, Ted smoking from a penis shaped bong, and a late night break in at Tom Brady’s house to steal his sperm. And there’s the fact that Ted is a magical being, he’s an inanimate object rendered alive by the wish of a small boy, who uses his gift of life to get high and drink booze with his mates. It’s not too dissimilar to the way that many of us choose to spend our lives.

Seth MacFarlane has made another movie that plays out pretty much as expected. It’s not a great film, and its legacy is slight. But it does provide some easy laughs, and although at times episodic, there’s a bigger narrative at play than in any of MacFarlane’s other work.

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