Film and TV

Ted 2 Isn't Just Funny — It's Totally Bear-able

Some movies are indefensible, and Ted 2 is one of them. Not only is this a movie about a libidinous, foul-mouthed stuffed bear; it’s the sequel to an earlier movie about a libidinous, foul-mouthed stuffed bear. But I laughed and laughed at Ted 2 — as I did at the 2012 Ted — and I can hardly tell you what that says about me, let alone about you. Will you laugh at Ted 2? That depends. The picture is somewhat ungainly. It putters along, occasionally attempting to be about something bigger than itself and not really succeeding. But if you’re in the right frame of mind and willing to give yourself over to its unapologetically idiotic id, it has the power to shake something loose in you. We all claim to long for smart comedy, but is it possible that puerile audacity is its own kind of intelligence? Or, to put it another way, this is your only chance this summer to watch Mark Wahlberg attempt to steal sperm from Tom Brady.

Ted 2, like its predecessor, was directed and co-written by Seth MacFarlane, who also provides the voice of the bear known as Ted. His diction, straight out of Southie, has plenty of burly swagger and is marked by those peculiarly elongated and flattened vowels that turn the thing most of us know as a “car” into a “caah.” Ted 2 is not above turning human beings into caricatures; hell, it’s all about turning human beings into caricatures — poking fun, as the first movie did, at Boston lunkheads in particular. This time around, though, MacFarlane is going for something bigger: In the opening scene, Ted gets hitched to his lady love, Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth); months later, there’s trouble in paradise, and in a classic comedy setup ripped straight from the misguided motivations of real life, the two decide that having a child will fix their marriage.

Forget that Ted doesn’t have the necessary physical attributes to get his wife pregnant; it turns out that Tami-Lynn can’t conceive anyway. When the two try to adopt, the authorities decree that Ted isn’t a human being, but “property.” MacFarlane treats Ted’s battle for personhood as a civil-liberties issue, analogous to gay-marriage rights: Talking bears should be able to marry and have families, too.

They should, of course, but luckily MacFarlane doesn’t stretch that slender metaphor too thin. The gags mostly revolve around pot smoking and rampant, joyful use of the F-word. Meanwhile, Ted’s human sidekick, John (Wahlberg), mopes around — his marriage to Mila Kunis’s character, from the first movie, has ended in divorce — but is revivified by the charms of the young lawyer who takes Ted’s case, Amanda Seyfried’s Samantha. Unbeknownst to all, the first film’s nefarious, unbalanced villain Donny (Giovanni Ribisi) lurks in the shadows, once again mounting an evil bearnapping scheme.

That’s one plot point too many, but it still doesn’t dim the crude exuberance of MacFarlane’s film, which is, after all, just a delivery receptacle for raunchy jokes and cockeyed societal observations.
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Stephanie Zacharek was the principal film critic at the Village Voice from 2013 to 2015. She is a member of the New York Film Critics Circle and of the National Society of Film Critics. In 2015 Zacharek was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in criticism. Her work also appeared in the publications of the Voice’s film partner, Voice Media Group: LA Weekly, Denver Westword, Phoenix New Times, Miami New Times, Broward-Palm Beach New Times, Houston Press, Dallas Observer and OC Weekly.