There’s an opening Frank Sinatra style dance sequence in Ted 2 during the titular teddy bear’s wedding which is highly reminiscent of the Family Guy theme song. Its choreography is but one of many ways in which the movie reminds viewers of writer-director Seth MacFarlane’s iconic animated series.
In many ways, this sequel to the 2012 hit comedy is much more episodic than its predecessor. While there’s the overarching plot of Ted trying to gain recognition as a human, there remains a more serialized structure to its storytelling.
The movie opens with Ted (voiced by MacFarlane) marrying the love of his life Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth). However, a year into their marriage, they come to the conclusion that the only way to keep it from falling apart is to have a kid. Upon failing to get a sperm donor (a portion of the film which contains some of the best celebrity cameos), they try for adoption, only to discover that Ted isn’t legally recognized as a human and as such is stripped of all his rights.
Ted’s best buddy John (Mark Wahlberg) is now divorced and takes the role of the movie’s sidekick this time around. He and his foul mouthed little friend team up with rookie lawyer Samantha Jackson (Amanda Seyfried) in order to help Ted gain citizenship.
Meanwhile, the creepy villain from the first film Donny (Giovanni Ribisi) is at it again. His plot this time is to ensure that Ted loses his case so that he can sell him as property to Hasbro where he can be mass manufactured. With the world against him, Ted must do everything he can to get his life back, while doing some stupid stuff along the way.
After some laugh out loud moments in the exposition, the tone of Ted 2 is surprisingly more serious throughout much of the film. MacFarlane seems to be pushing more of a political agenda, with Ted’s case being a blatant allegory for the Civil Rights Movement. This is perfectly fine, but I did want to laugh more in a movie about an irreverent talking teddy bear, especially since the first movie is hilarious from start to finish.
Nevertheless, much like Family Guy, MacFarlane throws in even more memorable pop-culture references and jokes than in the first film. A Jurassic Park one toward the end is particularly great, followed by a string of moments when Ted, John and Sam go to the New York Comic Con (where we see Sam Jones reprise his role from the original). With Sam knowing nothing about movies or mainstream entertainment, the trio’s adventure allows John and Ted to educate her in the ways of the Force.
Longtime MacFarlane collaborators Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild return to help pen the sequel’s screenplay. Aside from it being a little too serious, the story still captures the heart of its characters and it’s interesting seeing Ted evolve and take John’s place as the main protagonist. And despite it being more episodic in its narrative structure, it nonetheless manages to tie together everything in a fairly cohesive manner.
Seyfried replaces Mila Kunis as the sequel’s female lead and as John’s love interest. Aside from her primary characteristics being that she’s an inexperienced lawyer fresh out of college and knows nothing about pop-culture, the fact that she likes to get high captures the attention of her immature clients right away. The trio displays solid chemistry and the best moments come when Ted and John take full advantage of Sam’s lack of movie knowledge to make Gollum jokes about her eyes.
As MacFarlane’s third feature film, and coming from last year’s not so well received A Million Ways to Die in the West, the multitalented showman brings a kinetic energy to this film in terms of his directing ability. Even when the humor is pushed to the side in favor of more serious social commentary, MacFarlane continues to display a quality level of filmmaking with a wide range of locations and cinematic techniques. Look closely and you’ll see him pay homage to an array of directors and genres, from adventure classics to courtroom dramas.
I hate using the cliche of “this one’s not as good as the first” but Ted 2 is admittedly less funny than its stellar predecessor. Nevertheless, the movie provides both a well structured narrative as well an interesting, if a bit overdone, sociopolitical thematic element. MacFarlane’s cleverness and knack for satire are once again demonstrated, and if nothing else it’s undeniably fun to see everyone’s favorite Bud Light loving teddy bear back on the big screen.