Given that the original ‘Ted’ made a neat $500 million worldwide during its cinematic run in 2012, it really should come as no surprise that writer/director/star Seth MacFarlane has returned for sequel duty. Though he doesn’t have anything entirely original to say second time around, the wicked mojo he seemed to of lost with last year’s ‘A Million Ways To Die In The West’ has been somewhat restored with ‘Ted 2’, a fraternity-humoured, often gross-out, yet unexpectedly sweet continuation of the bear with a heart of gold and the mouth of a sailor.

Following Ted (voiced by MacFarlane) being brought back to life at the closing of the first film and serving as best man to his lifelong “thunder buddy”, best friend, and (technical) owner John (Mark Wahlberg), the sequel sees the titular bear at his own marriage ceremony to checkout chick co-worker Tami-Lyn (a strident Jessica Barth), exchanging vows as Sam J. Jones (yes, the original ‘Flash Gordon’) officiates. While this serves as a happy moment for Ted, John is less enthused as it is revealed he and wife Lori (Mila Kunis) have split up, and he now excels at playing the heartbroken bachelor; this arc more or less a convenient explanation for Kunis’ absence with the actress’ real-life pregnancy coinciding with filming. Fast-forwarding a year presents a less than harmonious married life for Ted and Tami-Lyn, so naturally it’s devised that a baby will solve all their problems and Ted suggests the two try, a plan easier said than done given his lack of anatomical correctness.

After Sam J. Jones denies Ted his sperm due to his exceptionally low count and the plan to milk a sleeping Tom Brady (gamely playing himself) expectedly falls through, the job of donor is bestowed onto John who, as people that have viewed the trailer will be familiar with, bungles his sperm bank visit, resulting in an admittedly humorous yet distasteful sequence that is capped off with a brilliantly executed joke at the expense of the Kardashian clan. From there the parenting situation only worsens as its revealed Tami-Lyn is infertile and, through their plans to hopefully adopt, it brings to light Ted’s lack of state recognition with Massachusetts deeming him “property”, effectively stripping him of an identity, his job, and his marriage certificate.

Not willing to stand idly by as his own distinctiveness hangs in the balance, Ted seeks out a lawyer in the hopes of suing the state for his own civil rights, and when he and John find Samantha Jackson (Amanda Seyfried), middle name Leslie (cue Sam L. Jackson jokes), they believe they have found their saviour; their confidence based solely on the fact that she happily fires up a bong during their first meeting. Finding much more to work with here than with her last MacFarlane collaboration (“A Million Ways…”) Seyfried is a joyful spark amongst the crude boys club humour that tends to be ‘Ted’s sense of direction; the actress happily making fun of her oversized eyes (making way for a particularly great reference to Gollum from ‘Lord of the Rings’) as she delicately walks the line of joining in on the low-brow fun whilst adding her own unique sweetness which ultimately richens proceedings.

At 115 minutes ‘Ted 2’ far overstays its welcome as MacFarlane once again proves his ineptness at reeling in his material, and the abundance of pop-culture references, though mildly enjoyable, wears thin relatively quickly, particularly during the closing moments at a Comic Con convention where his fandom for all things science fiction is on full display. Similarly, as with the first film, the addition of Giovanni Ribisi’s off-kilter Donny, now working as a janitor at the Hasbro company and still obsessed with kidnapping Ted, adds little to the overall story and had they opted to cut this entire subplot out, the film would be stronger for it with Ted’s trial, and the eventual appeal, sustaining enough material to fill out its length; the appeal introducing both Morgan Freeman as the country’s leading civil rights lawyer and a suitable joke on the lushness of his vocal tone.

Though there seems to be a bit of a tone-down in terms of vulgarity compared to the original, ‘Ted 2’ still lets the political incorrectness fly fast and loose, and there’s enough profane language, drug gags and sexual references to push its MA15+ classification to its limit; it should be mentioned though that as much as MacFarlane makes fair game out of anyone, ‘Ted 2’ likens its namesake’s plight in being recognised to that of the African-Americans under slavery and the current fight of the LGBT community with a welcome sense of respect. Elsewhere, ‘The Breakfast Club’ receives a neat call-out in one elaborately staged sequence, and a cameo appearance from a certain gravelly-voiced action star is executed to perfection in an early-on moment where they voice serious concern for their wellbeing after purchasing cereal deemed for children only.

When it comes down to it “Ted 2’ ultimately works because of the bromantic relationship between Ted and John, with MacFarlane and Wahlberg creating a likeable duo that speaks to the filthy inner child in us all; the latter especially showcasing his gameness in playing it straight to a CGI creation, happily throwing himself into his unhinged physical shtick that is slowly starting to become his trademark. Whilst it’s too early to tell if a ‘Ted 3’ is in the offing (material-wise this sequel indicates there’s little left for MacFarlane to work with) we can only hope this bounce back in comedic confidence for MacFarlane will spur further original outings; and if the glorious opening credit sequence staged by Tony-winning choreographer Rob Ashford is anything to go by, perhaps a full-blown musical is looming somewhere in on the cards?

My rating: 3/5

Director: Seth MacFarlane

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Seth MacFarlane, Amanda Seyfried, Morgan Freeman, Giovanni Ribisi, Patrick Warburton, Dennis Haysbert

Classification: MA15+ (Strong Drug Use, Crude Humour, Sexual References and Coarse Language)

Review by Peter Gray

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