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Old Toys Club

Ted 2 loses some stuffing




TED 2. To be fair, extenuating circumstances may have contributed to my lukewarm reception of this sequel; I saw it on the tail end of a camping weekend that left me depleted, dehydrated, sunburned and with a cold. So yeah, some of the onus is on me for having a hard time staying awake through this. In my defense, though, Ted 2, while funny, is a movie without a whole lot going on.

By now the novelty of Seth McFarlane's stoned stuffed bear and his misguided (and hurtfully named) buddy John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) has evaporated to the point that we need a little more story to sustain a sequel than this one provides. The original Ted (2012) in brief: As a lonely child, John wished his bear into sentient life, and good on him for that. Ted (McFarlane) was semi-famous for some time, but eventually he and John just ended up planted on the couch. John had, at some point, ventured out enough to find a lady-friend, but his closeness to Ted proved to be a problem. Also, some weirdos from around the way became uncomfortably fixated on the bear.

By the time we catch up with our protagonists, things have actually changed: John married his then-girlfriend, but that ended in divorce. So it is with great regret and sad-sackness that he watches Ted's nuptials to Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth). It's a beautiful wedding, capped off by an over-the-top Busby Berkeley-style opening credit sequence with Ted gliding joyously down a giant wedding cake decorated by dancers in formal wear. In his customary fashion, though, McFarlane as director and co-writer (with longtime collaborators Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild) can't let a grace note linger. Instead, he plunges us back in to his version of middle-American ennui, with Ted in an undershirt getting into a screaming argument with Tami-Lynn about money in their squalid little apartment. I get the joke, and there is some truth behind McFarlane's crude juxtaposition of high and low, but it's wearing thin after all these years. Ted, troubled by constant marital strife, takes the advice of a co-worker that having a baby with Tami-Lynn will solve their problems. Again, this feels frustratingly like a wink from the writers, like those of us in the audience who are smart enough to get the irony are on their team, while everybody else is somehow less-than. Regardless, this provides the set-up not only for an overlong sight gag about semen, but also for the central device of the plot. Which, of course, is that Ted is not considered a person in the eyes of the law. As a result, he loses his job, the marriage is annulled and having a child becomes impossible. Unless Ted and John can take their case to court and win, which they set out to do with the help of a newly-minted attorney (Amanda Seyfried) who likes civil rights and smoking weed as much as they do.

This thin premise sends the trio on a road-trip to beg the help of another, more prominent attorney (Morgan Freeman), which in turn lands them at New York comic-con for the climax, for no particular reason. Meanwhile, in the background, creepy Donny (Giovanni Ribisi) is back from the first installment. Now working as a custodian at Hasbro, he corners the CEO and pitches a harebrained scheme about kidnapping Ted (again) and somehow implanting his intelligence in other teddy bears.

I don't necessarily mind that the plot is so secondary to the jokes, but it bothers me that the makers of Ted 2 don't embrace that fact. There is a long history, after all, of great road comedies propelled more by performance and gags than by story. But in this case, it feels like the supply of jokes and whatever inspiration could be wrung from the dynamic between the leads ran out at the same time and the writers were reluctantly forced to manufacture a plot point to move along to the next set-up. Granted, many of the gags are legitimately funny. Too often, though, the funniest parts exist completely outside the structure of the story. Even the strongest laughs feel strangely unsatisfying, because the movie will, sooner or later, have to go back to being a movie again, which is where it loses its way. R. 115m.

— John J. Bennett


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— Jennifer Fumiko Cahill


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