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Movie Review: 'Ted 2'

The fiercely unapologetic Ted 2 is also fiercely hilarious.

Review by Matt Cummings

If 2011's Bridesmaids and Horrible Bosses began the renaissance of great comedies, then 2012's Ted kicked it in the balls, proving that the genre was back. A ridiculous and satisfying in every way, the story of a teddy bear come to life featured plenty of 80's references and expanded Actor Mark Walhberg's already impressive resume. With Ted 2, all the pieces are still there, with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. But is it this year's most complete comedy? Not so much.

Set a few years after the first film, Ted (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) is getting married to trashy grocery store co-worker Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth), while his thunder buddy John (Mark Wahlberg) is working through a divorce. Fast forward a year, and Ted's marriage looks like it's over, until the couple decide to have a baby. That opens up a series of legal troubles, as the state eventually determines that his non-sentience precludes him from adoption. They decide to sue, and bring on the newbie pothead lawyer Samantha L. Jackson (Amanda Seyfried). But Ted's nemesis Donny (Giovanni Ribisi) is still around, and when the state rules against the bear, Donny makes his move to deliver him to Hasbro in the hopes they can replicate Ted's soul. As Samantha and John search for him at the New York Comic-Con, Ted will make one final appeal for his existence before his chances at a successful marriage disappear.

Ted 2 is seriously funny: I mean laugh-so-loud-you-snort funny. Robin Williams jokes mixed with a little 9/11 for color? It's here. The Tom Brady Deflategate and his exceptional baby-makers? Ready and waiting for you. That might date things in a year or two, but MacFarlane weaves enough great moments that the whole should endure. He's the kind of comedic genius that some people simply won't appreciate (are you listening, Oscars?), perfectly mixing juvenile humor and tenor. His spitballs are nearly impossible to hit, whether it's a trip to the sperm bank gone horribly wrong, or watching Ted and company marvel over the perfect pot farm with Jurassic Park's theme playing in the background.

But it also goes off the rails when the tone gets serious about Ted's legitimacy as a human being. There's lawyers and suits and lots of serious looks by important people saying important things about human rights, which could have had meaning or could have been really funny. Instead, we get some half-baked (no pun intended) dime store speeches without ever REALLY considering if Ted should be recognized as sentient. At this point, the distinction between average toy and this foul-mouthed heathen should be fairly clear, and you might find yourself coming to the same conclusion several times while you hunt for breath taken away by all the great skits. Many of the scenes involving Donny and the shifty Hasbro president (John Carrol Lynch) are way too long, as you can only talk so long about urinal cakes before one loses interest. MacFarlane still has a lesson to learn about brevity as an effective comedic tool.

Ted 2 also slaps itself in the face when a certain cameo (if you seen the trailers, you know who it is) tells the bear that he's wasted his life smoking, drinking, and generally misbehaving when he could have been making a difference to young people all over the world. That didn't need to be in here, as it made me a little guilty for loving all the trouble he's caused. Overall, it's a pretty formulaic concept, with the same meaningless chases for Ted's soul, great little (but disconnected) skits, and a general roadmap that we can see coming a mile away. The first movie saw a death and rebirth of a major character and in Ted 2 we get the same thing.

The team of Walhberg and Seyfried is an improvement, with the latter holding her own when MacFarlane begins to drop the Gollum references (look at her and don't tell me there's a bit of a comparison to be made). Wahlberg spends most of his time interacting with a CGI bear, and comes out smelling sweet. He's proven himself time and again as a constant; here he makes John's love for Ted feel real and genuine, while busting out enough jokes with his thunder buddy to keep us in stitches. And yes, the cameos are here, from Liam Neeson as the paranoid grocery shopper to Jay Leno appearing in a single memorable shot.

What I've always loved about both Ted and The Muppets (opposite spectrums, I know) is that both are based in a fantasy world where any and all story beats can be entertained without us wondering if they're really possible. We can laugh about the ridiculousness of a stuffed bear or pig emoting about traffic jams or riffing 80's references while forgiving any small plot holes that can kill most like-minded competition. Few other franchises can make such a boast, and Ted 2 makes the most of it, descending man and bear into a world that most parents with 30-somethings still living at home will probably roll their eyes at the similarities. However, it's not this year's most complete comedy, stumbling to the end in a way that Spy simply didn't.

There may be some that say the gentler comedies of the 40's and 50's are better because they don't rely on the kind of crude humor that Ted 2 sharpens its teeth on. But the film is not only referential to the present, it's reverential to that earlier time, sporting a great opening production with out of 1936's The Great Ziegfeld. That sort of tip-of-the-hat is what makes it special, even if stumbles and meanders a bit. The only way you won't laugh is if you make an attempt to bring your grouchy face. But I promise that will soon disappear.

Ted 2 is Rated R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, and some drug use and has a runtime of 115 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

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