One of the screenwriters of this sequel to Seth MacFarlane’s 2012 smash hit “Ted” has joked that his suggestion for the title was “Ted 2: More of Same.”
There was certainly no compelling reason to provide further adventures of the profane, pot-smoking teddy bear and his human friend — other than, of course, the original’s $550 million worldwide box-office receipts. Delivering the same brand of anarchic, vulgar humor, “Ted 2” should easily compensate Universal Pictures for the lackluster business of MacFarlane’s ill-received “A Million Ways to Die in the West.”
The sequel pretty much hews to the template of its predecessor, with the same creative team and the return of most of the original cast members save for Mila Kunis. Set a few years later, the story begins with Ted (voiced by MacFarlane) tying the knot with his sexy grocery store co-worker Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth) as his best friend John (Mark Wahlberg) cheers them on.
We soon learn that John’s marriage has ended, and it isn’t long before Ted’s begins to hit the rocks as well. In a desperate attempt to restore harmony, Ted suggests to Tami-Lynn that they have a baby, not an easy proposition since he was not exactly designed to be anatomically correct.
The search for a sperm donor includes a nighttime raid on the mansion of Tom Brady (one of many celebrity cameos), with a reluctant John assigned to milk the football great while he’s asleep. Needless to say, the plan ends disastrously, although it does provide the opportunity for a timely joke, obviously added at the last minute, about the quarterback’s balls.
John volunteers to be the donor himself, cueing a raucously funny scene set inside a sperm bank that will be familiar for those who have seen the movie’s trailer. But when Tami-Lynn turns out to be infertile, the couple decides to adopt a child, a process that leads to the state of Massachusetts stripping Ted of his identity, since he’s technically not a person but “property.”
So Ted and John enlist the services of a beautiful young lawyer, Samantha (Amanda Seyfried), who despite her inexperience proves herself ideally suited for the job when she fires up a bong during their initial meeting. The ensuing court battle, in which Samantha is pitted against an unbeaten hotshot attorney (John Slattery), ends badly, leading to a road trip to New York City, where the three hope to convince the country’s leading civil rights lawyer (Morgan Freeman, comically riffing on his voice-of-authority persona) to handle the appeal.
Meanwhile, in another subplot borrowed from the original, the creepy Donny (Giovanni Ribisi) attempts once again to get Ted in his clutches. Working as a janitor at teddy bear manufacturer Hasbro, Donny persuades the head honcho (John Carroll Lynch) that if they can cut Ted open to see what makes him tick, they’ll make millions selling similarly animated bears.
Although the original’s over-the-top vulgarity has been dialed down a notch, “Ted 2” still offers plenty of R-rated laughs involving sex, rampant pot smoking and profane language that will surely prove a challenge to network censors when the film is aired on television. It’s also once again filled with endless pop culture references, including elaborate sequences recalling such 80’s-era films as “The Breakfast Club” and “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.” The slew of cameo turns from celebrities who gamely make fun of themselves includes, once again, Sam Jones of “Flash Gordon” fame. The others’ identities won’t be revealed here, but an appearance by a certain action movie veteran with a stone-faced, gravelly delivery is exploited to hilarious effect.
The screenplay co-written by MacFarlane with Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild gets bogged down by the serious plot turn, with no less loaded a subject than the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision frequently invoked. The courtroom melodramatics prove predictably tiresome, and a lengthy set piece at New York’s Comic-Con, with its outlandish array of costumed geeks, is the comedic equivalent of picking low-hanging fruit.
Ted’s Boston-accented zingers are expertly delivered by the director/star, whose voice talent is undeniable, and Wahlberg again demonstrates that he’s skilled at comedy (no small feat considering that he’s working with a CGI character), agreeably playing the straight man and happily throwing himself into his physical shtick. The appealingly laid-back Seyfried proves adept as well, easily holding her own with her co-stars as Samantha inevitably becomes a love interest for John.
The real love story, of course, is the bromance between John and Ted, with the characters’ loosey-goosey interactions, including harmonizing to the “Law & Order” theme song complete with made-up lyrics, providing the film’s funniest moments. Their relationship will no doubt deepen even further in the inevitable third installment.