Equal parts hilarious and awkward.
Movie Review #985
Parts of “Ted 2” were absolutely hysterical. In fact, many, many, many scenes in this sequel outrank the humor factor of the first movie. To the extent of these scenes, one would be convinced that this is a better movie than the first. One would find it rather hard to believe that among the many times “Ted 2” causes enough laughter to drown out the auditorium speakers, there are also moments of dead, awkward silence, the kind we might decide to break with a sympathetic chuckle.
“Ted” didn’t require a sequel. The first movie dealt with John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) fighting to keep both his girlfriend (Mila Kunis, who does not appear in this sequel) and his teddy bear (Seth MacFarlane in a motion-capture role), who swears like a sailor, hangs out with hookers, et cetera. The sequel’s story feels practically unrelated. It’s ultimately a one-joke plot: Ted marries Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth), his (human) girlfriend. She appeared in a bit role in the first movie, so it’s a bit surprising how major her role in “Ted 2” is. The marriage is perfectly fine, because as Patrick Stewart says in his opening narration, “America doesn’t give a shit about anything.” A year later, their marriage is beginning to fall apart, so they try to save it by adopting a (human) child. Unfortunately, they’re deemed unfit for adoption, because of Tami-Lynn’s history of drug abuse and, more importantly, the fact that Ted is a teddy bear. Somehow, the adoption center’s refusal to recognize Ted as human leads into others’ denial of his human rights, as well. Mainly, his marriage to Tami-Lynn is annulled without either of their consents.
From thereon, “Ted 2” becomes a tongue-in-cheek civil rights satire. Ted and John decide to sue for Ted’s human rights. They hire a lawyer named Sam Jackson (Amanda Seyfried) to represent them in court. The whole movie heavily satirizes the growing liberalization of America’s court system. Seth MacFarlane’s screenplay nods both subtly and directly to important civil rights cases such as Brown v. Board, Plessy v. Ferguson, and Dred Scott v. Sanford. Whether a teddy bear suing for his rights is as important as a black man doing so, may seem obvious, but MacFarlane twists that obviousness into something of sincerity. The one-joke plot here doesn’t really die out, so much as it transforms into something that feels strangely meaningful.
But it’s not really about satire. It’s about profiting from more of the same gags that made the first one work so well. Of course, there’s a lot of weed-smoking in “Ted 2”–probably three or four times as much as we saw the first time around. It just so happens that the lawyer John and Ted hired is an even more avid pothead than either of them. I nod to the particularly memorable scene where she introduces John to a kind of marijuana so strong that trying to get him home afterward becomes like trying to teach a quadriplegic to walk. Later on, while they are camping out in the wilderness, they all discover a field of cannabis. Its perceived ebullience is brightened by the sound of John Williams’s “Jurassic Park” theme.
The one scene that really takes the cake, though, is Liam Neeson’s guest appearance. It amounts to a minute or less, of which every second is priceless. I laughed almost to the point of choking at how brilliantly Neeson parodies his “Taken” persona in this very scene, and never breaks that very demeanor that has made him something of an icon in recent years. The kicker is that he’s not killing bad guys, and he’s not on the other side of the world. He’s in Boston, in a supermarket, at the check-out counter where Ted is working, buying a box of Trix cereal. Neeson delivers less than ten lines, but in doing so makes an almost unbeatable competitor for the best comedy scene of the year. However, there’s other moments that might compete amongst themselves for the most awkward comedy scenes of the year. Most of these involve Ted’s search for a sperm donor, before he realizes that adoption is an option. This piece of the storyline features a cameo from New England Patriot Tom Brady, as John and Ted break into his house in the middle of the night in an attempt to steal his semen. I guess we’re supposed to look at this as a joke in the sense that they’re trying to “deflate” his balls, but I didn’t even realize that until I got about halfway through writing this paragraph. As I watched the scene, I didn’t find any such humorous value in it. I just wanted it to be over. Then we have scenes like the one at the sperm bank, where John topples over several racks of rejected sperm samples onto himself. I’d watch the whole movie again just to see Liam Neeson’s scene one more time, but then again, I might consider it much less knowing that I’d have to endure scenes like the sperm bank scene again.