RETURN OF THE TEDDY

THIS SUMMER’S GUILTY COMEDY ARRIVES, BUT WHILE TED 2 IS ENTERTAINING IN ITS OWN RIGHT, IT FALLS SHORT OF THE ORIGINAL

Director: Seth MacFarlane

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Seth MacFarlane, Amanda Seyfried, Jessica Barth, Ron Slattery, Ron Canada, John Carol Lynch, Giovanni Ribisi and Morgan Freeman

Studio: Universal

Rated: 14A

Running Time: 1 Hr, 55 Min

Universal Studios, who have hit two enormous home runs already this year with Furious 7 and Jurassic World, have tried to recapture the lightning of it’s 2012 hit comedy Ted with this summer’s Ted 2. While the original Ted, Seth MacFarlane’s modern day fairly tale of a teddy bear brought to life by the Christmas wish of a young boy who grows up to be a foul mouthed, pot smoking narcissist, was a run away and surprise hit, the sequel comes up a little short, with too many of its moments feeling like a forced effort to surpass the original.

Taking place three years after the original, Ted (voiced brilliantly by Seth MacFarlane) is taking the plunge and marrying his equally hard living girlfriend Tammy-Lynn (Jessica Barth). His best friend John (Mark Wahlberg) isn’t as lucky with his love life though, having recently divorced Laurie (played by Mila Kunis in the original) and finds himself fending off Ted’s crude encouragements to get back in the romantic saddle. It doesn’t take long for things to begin souring between Ted and Tammy-Lynn, so in a desperate attempt to save their marriage, the two decide to have a baby. But the subsequent hunt for a sperm donor and investigation into adoption sets of a legal chain of events that finds Ted fighting a stubborn U.S. government to prove he’s a person, deserving of all the legal rights, privileges and obligations. Along the way he and Donnie meet idealistic young attorney and fellow marijuana aficionado Samantha Jackson (Amanda Seyfried) and come up against greedy Hasbro CEO Tom Jessup (John Carol Lynch) and find themselves once again at odds with Ted’s unbalanced, Tiffany addicted stalker Donny (Gioanni Ribisi).

Like its predecessor, Ted 2 doesn’t just embrace it’s crude vulgarity; it wallows in it. There’s little for sensitivity and it often feels like it’s pushing the envelope on the shock factor to outdo the first one. Too many times crude jokes feel random and fall flat as a result. And it falls into the modern adult comedy trap of trying to include that one notorious scene that will have everyone talking all summer about how hilariously disgusting it was, but in this case it just comes off as gross. And the absence of Laurie leaves a pretty big plot hole. John’s relationship to her in the original was the primary plot motivation, as his friendship with Ted became a liability to his love for Laurie. After cheering for John to grow up enough to deserve her while balancing his relationship with Ted, the idea that their marriage still failed feels hollow, and John’s likeability suffers despite his apparent depression.

But you have to hand it to Ted’s visual effects team, the creation and inclusion of a talking teddy bear is perfectly executed, and the movie’s cast interacts with him flawlessly. Especially Wahlberg, who is not only convincing as a depressed slacker mopping through life, but somehow manages to have great chemistry with an animated bear. While some of Ted’s crude jokes and references miss the forced mark, many of them do indeed land with guilty accuracy and the physical slapstick pays off (the chase scene and brawl at Comic-Con pretty much justifies the price of the ticket) as does the parade of guest stars and surprising cameos (particularly Liam Neeson’s). Coming off last year’s disappointing A Million Ways to Die in the West, director Seth MacFarlane does a brilliant job voicing Ted while also including plenty of love letters to the 80’s and a handful of the big musical numbers he adores so much.

Despite often feeling like it’s trying too hard, Ted 2’s highs balances out its lows. While not as good as the first one, it’s more then mildly amusing and will inspire its fair share of guilty laughs, just make sure to leave your sensitivities at home.

Shayne Kempton

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