Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Run Time: 1 hour, 55 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Seth MacFarlane (voice), Mark Wahlberg, Amanda Seyfried, Jessica Barth, Giovanni Ribisi, Morgan Freeman, Sam Jones
Written and Directed by Seth MacFarlane (Ted, A Million Ways to Die in the West).
It's hard to believe that there was once a time when the world wasn't quite ready for Seth MacFarlane. His animated TV series, Family Guy, was actually cancelled after only its third season on Fox back in 2001, before its successful return a few years later when it grew from a cult hit into a cultural phenomenon. But nowadays, MacFarlane's crude style of observational humor - a style that he all but invented, that is mainly pointed at every single aspect of pop culture - seems to be the norm. It is hard to believe that only a few decades ago, Bart Simpson was regularly offending people with his disrespectful "Don't have a cow, man," catch-phrase. Flash-forward to 2015 - 16 years after Family Guy's initial premiere - we now hardly bat an eye when MacFarlane scripts a scene in Ted 2 (opening today) where one of his characters is covered in semen after knocking over a shelf full of samples on himself while hanging out at a local sperm bank
Progress? Not exactly. But chances are that you probably either find yourself a big fan of MacFarlane's brand of raunchy comedy, or you find yourself disgusted and appalled by its immaturity and its offensive nature. If you're in that second camp, there is little reason for you to see Ted 2, the inevitable follow-up to the surprise box-office smash Ted (MacFarlane's 2012 directorial debut). If you're in that first group, there is little I will be able to say that will sway you from the theaters this weekend.
Ted, of course, is the talking teddy bear, brought to life by his "thunder buddy," the imbecilic John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg, who once again proves he has serious comedic chops). When we catch up with Ted this time, he is getting married to the gum-chomping Boston-ite, Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth) while John is reeling from his recent divorce. When Tami-Lynn and Ted decide they want to have a child to fix their already-rocky marriage, they unleash a sea of red tape...and in the process, Ted discovers that he is not legally regarded as a "person," and he is in fact, "property." In order to adopt a child and to have his marriage to Tami-Lynn recognized by the state, Ted must prove in a court of law that he is actually a person, and deserving of equal rights.
All of this of course, is MacFarlane's thinly-veiled attempt at socio-political commentary. Ted might as well be a member of the LGBT community, fighting for his rights and demanding fair treatment. Much of the movie is quite ridiculous, but we should accept it for what it is: An R-rated comedy about a foul-mouthed, pot-smoking bear, and his best bud John. There are a great deal of laughs, paced pretty well throughout the film. Equally, there are moments that are sure to offend the weak-hearted, whether that be gross-out moments (did I mention the semen scene?), or jabs at blacks, whites, hispanics, gays/lesbians, and pretty much every other race, class or creed imaginable. And it doesn't end there. In a bit where Ted and John decide to go to an improv comedy club to shout out "sad ideas" at the performers, you will hear references to 9/11, Robin Williams and even the tragedy at Charlie Hebdo. I'm not kidding when I say that MacFarlane continues to push the envelope on what (and when) a joke can be.
Not every joke lands, and the film is at its weakest when MacFarlane gets a bit preachy with his political statements. But it is damn funny, even when - OK, especially when - it is trying to offend. Look for some great cameos from the likes of Jay Leno, Liam Neeson and Tom Brady, to name a few, all of whom have no problem poking fun at themselves, and Flash Gordon himself (Sam Jones) is back for the fun as well.
The first Ted felt a tad ground-breaking because it showed that MacFarlane could migrate his Family Guy style and sensibilities into a live-action motion picture. Ted 2 is not more or less funny that its predecessor, but it does have a "been there, done that" feel to it. It's just another episode of MacFarlane's world view, and he shows that his tank is nowhere near empty when it comes to poking fun at modern society, and for his love of all things pop culture. There are so many references to past films, toys, TV shows, that it's almost easier to list which of them he didn't skewer. It's only fitting then, that the film culminates in a massive brawl inside the walls of the New York City Comic-Con, where nerds in costume battle each other in a hilarious mash-up of TV shows past and present. If you don't get the references, Ted 2 will most likely fly over your head. But if you can identify both Dalek from Dr. Who and the B-9 robot from Lost in Space, you will laugh out loud at the absurdity of watching them attempt to duke it out in the midst of the iconoclastic melee.
MacFarlane has perfected the art of packaging high-brow humor in the guise of low-brow humor. Ted 2 is more of the same from him...brilliant, edgy, daring, childish, gross, distasteful, obnoxious, insightful, witty and entertaining. Which, if you happen to be a fan of his, is nothing more than you'd expect.
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