What crime did we commit to earn us the indignity of playing host to Ted? It’s not insignificant that the Boston-born teddy bear has the exact same voice as Peter Griffin, the Rhode Island-based patriarch of director Seth MacFarlane’s other famous project, Family Guy. That shared accent reveals just how one-note his brand of humor is—these comedies are so broad that they span multiple states.
Ted and John Bennett (Wahlberg) are reeling from romantic setbacks: Bennett hasn’t dated since getting divorced from his wife, and Ted’s marriage to Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth) is headed down the same highway. The latter pair aims to solve their strife with a baby, but their application to adopt reveals that Ted is legally considered “property,” costing him his job, his marriage, and his freedom. He sues the Commonwealth for human status, complete with earnest nods to Dred Scott. But this isn’t a spoof or satire of courtroom dramas about civil rights, as that would require MacFarlane to have legitimate political ideas or beliefs—it’s just a half-assed example of the genre. He’s remade Philadelphia with a teddy bear in place of Tom Hanks.
To state outright that Ted 2 can’t justify its own existence as a consideration of the minority experience in America seems unnecessary. But MacFarlane also fails on a more modest scale: This isn’t even worthwhile within the genre of “Boston movies.” Aside from an exterior shot of Park Street, there’s hardly an element of the film specific to our beloved city. One lone touch feels authentic: the fact that Wahlberg’s character is a grumpy Irish guy who drinks too much because it’s easier than dealing with his feelings.
Part of the problem is that MacFarlane’s bought into the hype of his own franchise. Bennett worked a job in the first movie, and it provided a working-class perspective that made all the random humor funnier, if only by contrast. But in Ted 2 we don’t see him clock in once. And so when—for example—a legal study session turns into an extended Breakfast Club reference, it has nothing to stand out against. It’s not irreverent, because it’s just more references to a pop culture that’s long past its sell-by date. He may pose as a vulgar townie poet, but MacFarlane’s got the comedic chops of a mediocre late-show host. He just points at something we all know about already, and hopes that we laugh.
The climax takes us to New York’s Comic Con, where MacFarlane revels in the possibilities—all pretense at narrative goes out the window while he references Total Recall, Dragon Ball Z, and innumerable other pre-existing properties for the sake of cheap laughs born only of recognition. This is MacFarlane’s true home—not among New Englanders, but among other brands. Too bad there’s one last scene set in Boston. We were hoping he wouldn’t come back.
TED 2. RATED R. NOW PLAYING EVERYWHERE.