“Ted 2” Movie Review

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     Comedy sequels can be a tough nut to crack for filmmakers and especially screenwriters.  The fact there is a sequel in the first place normally means a writer is being tasked with recreating the magic that made the first installment special enough to warrant a second outing. This can be difficult since the novelty will have worn off and audiences will expect something new to laugh at.  Recently, two such sequels hit the screen with the followup to 2004’s “Anchorman”, “Anchorman 2”, and the revisiting of 1994’s “Dumb and Dumber”, “Dumb and Dumber Too”.  Neither sequel met audience’s expectations or that of critics, and their respective box office grosses ultimately disappointed.  Both of these films made the fatal error of simply recycling the same jokes, plot devices, and sight gags that were featured in the original, and hoped audiences would simply be satisfied with the nostalgic aspects of the character’s return to the big screen.  Seth MacFarlane’s “Ted 2” arrives just three years after the original film, “Ted”, came out of nowhere in the summer of 2012 and provided filmgoers with the kind of gut busting laughs that had been missing from multiplexes for years.  Now with the original filmmakers intact as well as most of the cast, does “Ted 2” deliver enough fresh material to keep the laughs going?  Or does it simply repeat what’s already familiar?  As it turns out, the film does a little bit of both.

     Ever present in “Ted 2” is a constant barrage of insensitive jokes about race, homosexuality, and sex in general, along with a heavy dose of weed related wise cracks that really never separate themselves from the very same jokes in the first film.  Nonetheless, Ted, the talking teddy bear voiced by writer/director Seth MacFarlane is still hilarious in his scenes with fellow Thunder Buddy, John Bennett, played by Mark Wahlberg.  Not much has changed between the two and their friendship, but plenty has in their other relationships.  Perhaps smartly, Mila Kunis passed on the sequel (I really hope she didn’t pass in order to star in the Wachowski’s terrible “Jupiter Ascending”.) and thus her character has been written off by way of a divorce from John.  Meanwhile, Ted has married Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth) and the two share a turbulent life together while still working as cashiers at the same grocery store featured in the first film.

     Suddenly, Ted receives a number of letters from the government, banks, and various creditors notifying him that he is no longer considered a real person and thus is not afforded the rights of being married or adopting a child as the couple recently had attempted (Yes, I know I’m writing this as if Ted is indeed a real person and not a talking teddy bear….just roll with it.).  The storyline MacFarlane is going with here allows for an elaborate courtroom sequence with attorneys arguing in front of jury for and against Ted, as he fights for human rights.  Oddly enough, this includes arguments that compare Ted’s situation to that of African-Americans during slavery, but I suppose we are expected to chalk that up as the sort of low brow humor a film like this is allowed to delve into.  He is just a talking stuffed animal after all, he can say anything he wants without being offensive.

     Ted and John solicit the help of a bumbling first year attorney, Samantha Jackson (Amanda Seyfried), who shares their penchant for all things weed in an attempt to help gain personhood for our beloved title character. A recurring comparison between her and a famous “Lord of the Rings” character had me giggling every time it was brought up.  Through all of this, there are some truly funny moments which seem to alternate with scenes that don’t really work at all.  Scenes involving Tom Brady, as well as a trip to a local sperm bank hit the high mark and had me laughing even after the scene was over.  Whereas the constant reappearance of Patrick Warburton’s character, Guy, as well as a recycled subplot from the first film involving Giovanni Ribisi’s character, Donny, seemed forced and unnecessary.  As was the case in “Ted”; however, the continuous 80s and 90s pop culture references in nearly every scene are what will keep a smile on your face, even after you’re done laughing at something in particular.  And with the film’s third act taking place entirely at the New York Comic Con, “Ted 2” piles on these references thick and with reckless abandon.  Something I can only see as a positive.  One scene involving the timely playing of John Williams’ “Jurassic Park” theme was the funniest thing I’ve seen all year by far.

     As comedy sequels go, “Ted 2” delivers, for the most part, a fairly original story that actually takes the characters into situations not previously explored in the first film.  Sure, a lot of the basis for the jokes follow along much of the same subject matter, that being sex and weed, but the focus of the plot allows the characters and the audience to experience plenty that will feel new and that’s saying something.  Especially when you consider the producers of the “Hangover” films essentially made the same movie three times and got away with it.  There’s plenty to like here, as Seth MacFarlane has successfully recovered from his deplorable outing last summer, “A Million Ways to Die in the West” and given us something which can actually be considered a good time at the movies.  If he can replicate the kind of fresh material he ’s able to present in “Ted 2” while riffing on everything from the events in Ferguson to “Deflategate”, than perhaps there could be room for a “Ted 3”.  #whynot  GRADE: C+