Seth MacFarlane has earned a reputation as someone willing to go to any depths for a joke, no matter how unfunny the joke might be. That image of MacFarlane comes largely from Family Guy, which somehow manages to become more abrasive and unlikable as the years progress. Even if it wasn’t a great film, part of what made Ted work as well as it did was how it took a few steps back from Family Guy‘s structure, instead working with a more traditional story that had some emotional moments that didn’t feel out of place. With Ted‘s success, MacFarlane has more freedom to do what he wants with Ted 2. As it turns out, what he wants hews closer to Family Guy.
Ted 2 is a mixed bag of a film. The results of MacFarlane’s freedom alternate wildly between indulgence that’s refreshing and indulgence that drags. Plenty of scenes and even plots exist solely for the sake of a joke, and even when the jokes are so shocking that they provoke wild bursts of laughter, the result is a film that feels like it could lose 20-30 minutes and still be intact, plot-wise.
Ted (MacFarlane) and his girlfriend, Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth), are married as the film opens. A year into marriage, though, they’re already at each others throats. One of their coworkers suggests that they should have a baby; loving that baby, she suggests, will teach them how to love each other. Yes, it’s as ridiculous as it sounds. Because Ted is a teddy bear, he works with John (Mark Wahlberg) to get sperm for an artificial insemination. Eventually, Ted and Tami-Lynn decide to adopt instead, but Ted is flagged by the government as being property, not a person. Ted and John decide the best course of action is to sue the government for Ted’s civil rights, and they end up with fresh-faced lawyer Samantha Jackson (Amanda Seyfried) as Ted’s representation. Unbeknownst to them, though, Donny (Giovanni Ribisi) has returned to conspire with Hasbro executive Tom Jessup (John Carroll Lynch) to have Ted declared as property so they can open him up and figure out how to make more of him.
It’s a lot of plot to get to a story about civil rights, and it’s handled with exactly the amount of care one would expect from MacFarlane: in court, Ted makes reference to the “homos trying to get married.” But it’s also par for the course with MacFarlane’s self-indulgence here. There are several scenes that add nothing to the plot of the film, including the opening credits dance number that more or less duplicates the opening credits for Family Guy and an extended joke involving Liam Neeson. They’re frustrating, because they’re plentiful. At the same time, it’s hard being frustrated with them when some of them are, quite frankly, hilarious.
Additionally, there’s the little detail of how Ted 2 wipes out a major part of Ted. Yes, Mila Kunis’ Lori married John at the end of Ted, and yes, she’s not back here. The two split six months prior to the start of the film, after a few years of marriage. As Ted sees it, John needs to be with a woman who doesn’t want to change him the way Lori wanted; in other words, John needs a Cool Girl. Someone like, say, Samantha. It’s frustrating, because the first film actually did a decent job of showing why John needed to grow up, and having him regress here is a sad sign.
Ted 2 did make me laugh. A lot. It also shocked me with just how mean it was willing to be with its jokes, including a few Lord of the Rings-related jabs at Amanda Seyfried. That doesn’t make up for how much this film drags, though. Whether it will be worth the viewing for audiences will be up to how much audience members are craving MacFarlane’s particular style of humor.