The Supreme Court, in its inscrutable wisdom, has ruled that corporations can be considered “persons” when it comes to the “right” to free speech, mostly in the form of contributions to political campaigns. If businesses can be treated as people, why not a teddy bear?
That’s the question in “Ted 2,” which presumes you have seen “Ted” (there’s hardly any explanatory material) and find the cloth-stuffed, foul-mouthed, hard-drinking little bruin hilarious, no matter what he does.
In this case, he’s trying to have himself declared a person so he can adopt a baby with his new wife, Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth). When he goes to court to argue for his rights, he’s ruled to be property; he loses job, marriage, all his legal status and can now be claimed by the toy company Hasbro, whose chief executive intends to bearnap and duplicate him. (Yes, it’s a clunky plot.)
What made “Ted” refreshing was not the concept; countless movies have put dirty words into the mouths of little kids, animals or innocent-looking old folks. But John and Ted seemed like real, lower-class Bostonians fighting (or not always fighting) their own ignorance, immaturity and prejudice. I didn’t think their odd jokes about Jews, blacks or ethnic stereotypes were meant to be funny; those were inserted to make these characters truer to life.
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Director Seth McFarlane, who again wrote the script with Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild and supplies the voice of the bear, soft-pedals the bigoted humor this time: It’s there, but the gags come more from Ted’s quest for identity. John (Mark Wahlberg) also has a more appropriate girlfriend than kindly Lori, who has divorced him after two years; he pairs off with the lawyer who takes Ted’s case (Amanda Seyfried), a young woman as juvenile and pot-obsessed as the two pals.
McFarlane’s at his best when he breaks new ground: Liam Neeson, Tom Brady and other celebrities get bizarrely funny cameos, and the lawyer’s cultural ignorance sparks many jokes. Seyfried, whose eyes bulge a bit, shows amazing tolerance by allowing repeated comparisons to Gollum.
Yet too many things get repeated from “Ted.” Crazy Donny (Giovanni Ribisi) shows up again to menace the bear; one of the main characters has a near-death experience; Sam “Flash Gordon” Jones, who enlivened the first film, seems to be wedged into the second story out of friendly obligation.
The jokes that land where they should, including a “Jurassic Park” homage in a marijuana field, make you laugh out loud. But the fluffy plot about the denial of basic human rights feels like a civics lesson and slows us down. MacFarlane mines this lode for just enough gold to keep us interested one more time, and his holdings have now played out.
The stuffed bear wants to adopt a baby with his girlfriend, Tami-Lynn; in order to do so, he must be declared a person by a court.
B- STARS: Mark Wahlberg, Seth MacFarlane, Amanda Seyfried, Jessica Barth.
DIRECTOR: Seth MacFarlane.
RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes.
RATING: R (crude and sexual content, pervasive language, some drug use).