TED 2 Movie Review – This Is How the World Ends
This is the way the world — correction, commercial cinema — ends, not with a bang, not with a whimper, but with a low-brow, lo-bro “comedy” co-written, directed, and starring (the voice of) ubiquitous Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane and Ted 2, the sequel to 2012’s surprise hit, Ted. MacFarlane had approximately $550 million reasons to make Ted 2 (Universal had exactly the same reasons to give Ted 2 a greenlight). Unfortunately for everyone involved, especially ticket-purchasing members of the general public, Ted 2’s arrival could be described by one and only one word (for now): Stillborn. Minus the momentary novelty of a foul-mouthed, ambulatory, libido-driven, teddy bear, Ted 2 sinks into the same muck and mire of as MacFarlane’s last big-screen attempt. It’s just as lazily, sloppily written, filled with tired, clichéd in-jokes, juvenile, R-rated humor, and stale pop-culture references, wasting its cast, including an all-too-game Amanda Seyfried, in an overlong, over-indulgent, interminable sketch expanded to nearly two hours.
When we last saw Ted and his best friend, John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg), the dude-bro somehow responsible for bringing Ted to life several decades ago. John may be pushing 50, but he’s still an irresponsible, pot-smoking teen at heart. John had a simple, straightforward character arc: Man up, leave childish things (like Ted) behind, and settle down for a lifetime of heterosexual, monogamous bliss with Lori Collins (Mila Kunis). Fast forward three years and John has regressed to the mean: He’s back in dude-bro form, getting blissfully stoned at every opportunity, working (somehow) to make ends meet, and sulking over the loss of Lori (for obvious reasons). Ted’s moved on too: Despite — or maybe because of — his non-human status, he’s getting married to Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth), the trash-talking cashier who stole Ted’s figurative heart.
Apparently, Ted’s lack of genitalia hasn’t stopped Ted and Tami-Lynn from consummating their romantic relationship, but said lack of male genitalia makes it impossible for Ted and Tami-Lynn to conceive. What a human-toy bear hybrid would look like never comes up, but we can imagine the product of their relationship would look like something out of H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau. That decision, made for all the “wrong” reasons (to save Ted and Tami-Lynn’s deteriorating marriage), leads to a sperm bank scene that’s as relentlessly crude, rude, and tasteless as anything in MacFarlane’s non-storied oeuvre. It’s also one of Ted 2’s few modestly inventive sight gags, assuming, of course, you find the prospect of Mark Wahlberg or his character humiliatingly drenched in several liters of unfrozen sperm. Ted 2, however, soon reverts to the mean (in both senses of the term), shifting the focus from Ted and Tami-Lynn’s conception woes to another Ted-in-peril plotline.
Ted’s problem, his legal status (“Is he property or is he a person?”), takes up the bulk of Ted 2’s running time. Ted’s legal status, a constitutional right, not a civil rights one as MacFarlane and his co-writers keep mentioning (yet another sign of MacFarlane’s abject laziness as a writer, given that a first-year law student could have straightened out the issue for him), leads in turn to the narrative entrance of Ted’s lawyer, Samantha L. Jackson (Seyfried), Bennett’s obligatory romantic interest, and the punchline of one too many Gollum jokes (one Gollum joke is one too many). It’s a thankless role, as was Kunis’ three years ago, but it’s not through a lack of effort or commitment on Seyfried’s part by any means. Bennett might be a dude-bro, but in Samantha’s pot-smoking, first-year associate, he’s apparently found a kindred spirit. That’s no more or less believable than the idea of an ambitious law-school graduate entertaining the possibility of a romantic relationship with an ambition-free, low-status male like Bennett. Then again, Ted 2 is nothing if not a male fantasy, a white male fantasy, stuffed into a two-hour, hit-or-miss (decided emphasis on miss) “comedy.”
That white male fantasy takes a surprisingly nasty, condescending turn on multiple occasions, culminating in anti-nerd bullying at the heavily cross-promoted New York Comic Con (dude-bros have to dude-bro, apparently). Like Hasbro, the toy makers behind the intellectually bankrupt, multi-billion dollar grossing Transformers’ series (they repeatedly appear in Ted 2 for no apparent reason or rationale), New York Comic Con’s owners must have paid a serious chunk of change for such obtrusive, obvious product placement. Not that MacFarlane or Universal would have a problem offsetting production costs with product placement. If they did, that would suggest one or both had the equivalent of a soul (metaphorically speaking). They don’t, of course, as amply proven by Ted 2 and MacFarlane’s forgettable, disposable small-screen oeuvre (the less said about MacFarlane’s execrable A Million Ways to Die in the West, the better for everyone involved).