After Seth MacFarlane's attempt at a Western comedy (last year's A Million Ways to Die in the West) ended in total failure, he retreated to far safer territory with a sequel to his 2012 moneymaker Ted. The formula for Ted 2 is predictable: If you enjoyed the Boston-accented gross-out quips of the first flick, there's plenty more where that came from; if you weren't a fan, there won't be much for you here. Despite the bro-y overtones and garish concept, this might just be the guilty pleasure of the summer.
Six months after his divorce from Lori (played in the first film by Mila Kunis), John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) is struggling to get back into the dating game. Meanwhile, his best buddy, sentient teddy bear Ted (voiced by MacFarlane), has just tied the knot with his girlfriend and grocery-store co-worker Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth). It's not long before there's serious trouble in paradise for the newlyweds, as the couple discover that two cashiers' paychecks aren't enough to keep them afloat. In order to repair their marriage, Ted suggests they have a baby. Given that he isn't quite equipped with the correct anatomy, he reaches out to John for a sperm donation (that is, after a few failed attempts to get a celebrity donor). Unfortunately, Tami-Lynn's checkered history of drug use has left her infertile, prompting the couple to try adoption instead.
During the adoption process, Ted learns that he's technically considered property and has no rights under the Constitution. His life soon comes crashing down -- he's laid off from the grocery store and his marriage to Tami-Lynn is annulled. John suggests they fight back, and the duo begin a lengthy legal battle to have Ted declared a person, aided by pro-bono junior lawyer Samantha Jackson (Amanda Seyfried). Meanwhile, the bizarre, Ted-obsessed Donny (Giovanni Ribisi, reprising his role from the first film) convinces the CEO of Hasbro to fund the state's case against Ted so the company can reclaim the bear and mass produce copies of him. An overly long and complicated final act ensues, featuring a blossoming romance between John and Samantha, the involvement of star lawyer Patrick Meighan (Morgan Freeman), and a chaotic trip to Comic-Con.
Apart from the convoluted plot, Ted 2 is an unabashedly funny and absurd sequel, an incredible feat given the odds stacked against it. On the surface, it has all the makings of a disaster that will cause eyelids to droop across the nation -- the novelty of watching a talking teddy bear has lost its luster, and the run time clocks in at a bloated 115 minutes. Yet while the courtroom scenes drag on and the entire Donny subplot is wholly unnecessary, the movie is filled to its stitching with hilarious moments. This is blunt-force comedy, and while some of the gags and one-liners miss, you won't have much time to dwell on them. The physical comedy isn't nearly as effective as the verbal jabs from screenwriters MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, and Wellesley Wild, most of which overflow with pop-culture references. MacFarlane and his team have hovered on the line separating tasteful and offensive in previous productions, and Ted 2 contains even more of his off-color and vulgar brand of humor.
Seyfried's bong-ripping attorney Samantha is an amicable replacement for Mila Kunis, whose real-life pregnancy prevented her from returning as Lori. Wahlberg's character is a bit dumbed down from the first flick, reducing him to the stalwart best friend who keeps throwing in his stoned observations. Still, he flexes his comedic muscles and proves once again that he can perform agreeably in just about any Hollywood movie; there's one particular non sequitur about free candy in offices that Wahlberg nails with a surprisingly amount of subtlety. There are also a host of celebrity cameos to liven up the proceedings, including Liam Neeson as an inquisitive grocery-store shopper and Flash Gordon star Sam J. Jones as himself (a gag continued from the previous film).
It's inevitable that we're going to get a third installment in this bromance. There's no doubt that MacFarlane and his cohorts will conjure up another feature-length series of weed and dick jokes, but will anyone care? Nobody in Hollywood is able to end things on a high note these days, so expect a bomb of a third movie to follow this flawed but funny sequel.