I admit it: Seth MacFarlane had me fooled. I thought he intended Ted as a sly commentary on extended male adolescence. That was certainly the way it played. But I was wrong. What I saw in Ted was accidental. Not deliberate. The proof is here in Ted 2, which obliterates everything that was smart and clever in the first film by actually negating it, as if it were entirely beside the point. Which I see now that it was.
Or else MacFarlane — writer (one of three credited), director, and voice of Ted — simply doesn’t care about the integrity of his creation in the face of an easy paycheck. I could easily believe either.
Mark Wahlberg’s (Entourage, The Gambler) John had been gently and compassionately pushed into adulthood, but now he has reverted back into juvenility, because that’s what happens when women break your heart. (The woman he married at the end of the first film has left him. Maybe she got tired of having to police his adulthood, but we’re not told the reason.) Ted the living, breathing, pot-smoking teddy bear has always lived in juvenility, but he is getting married to Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth) as Ted 2 opens, which would appear to be a step toward adulthood. But not so much for this couple, you will be unsurprised to hear, who are instantly on the rocks and then deciding to have a baby to “fix” their relationship. (Pity this child.) Since the normal route to babymaking is not available to them, for obvious reasons, they decide to adopt. That the prospective parents work low-wage jobs in a grocery store isn’t a problem, it seems (adoption is an insanely expensive privilege they could never actually enjoy), but Ted’s status as a magically brought-to-life stuffed toy is. Apparently the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has suddenly realized that Ted is not human, and Ted has to go to court to prove his personhood.
Is the man who sang “We Saw Your Boobs” at the Oscars one to give us a touching story about civil rights and human dignity? Or will he attempt to make us laugh at the tale a racist, sexist, homophobic teddy bear not changing his bigoted attitudes one whit while appropriating the struggles of others for himself? I’ll give you one hint: Amanda Seyfried (While We’re Young, A Million Ways to Die in the West) as the lawyer who is working pro bono on their case is a way-cool chick who is unafraid to smoke pot in the office. You know, like all lawyers new to a firm and desperate to make a good impression do. (Seyfried does double duty as John’s new love interest. She’s even younger than the one who just left him, so maybe she’ll let him continue to wallow in adolescence?) In between all the many — many — random Family Guy-ish pop-culture references springing out of nowhere, there is talk of Plessy vs. Ferguson and Brown vs. Board of Education, and the two threads are not connected in any way at all: it would be an improvement if Christopher Lloyd showed up in a cameo to shout “Dred Scott!” Doc Brown-style. But this would be a cleverness beyond what MacFarlane has to offer.
Instead, we have a litany of grossouts, male terror of other men’s penises, slut-shaming, and MacFarlane’s (A Million Ways to Die in the West) directorial enjoyment of how setting up two-shots with the two-foot-tall Ted and a woman means he can get some disembodied female asses and legs on the screen in a way that just seems casual, like how else could he have framed it?
Worst of all, though, is the finale, which for reasons that don’t even make sense in a narrative as flimsy as this one, ends up at Comic-Con in New York. If there’s a rationale for this setting at all, it’s so that MacFarlane can bite the hand that feeds him and make fun of nerds. (It is beyond disappointing to see Patrick Warburton [Mr. Peabody & Sherman, Movie 43] and Michael Dorn [Star Trek: Nemesis, Santa Clause 2] participating in this.) The most fantastical notion in this entire movie is that there are day-of tickets available to walk up and purchase at New York Comic-Con. The biggest mystery is why MacFarlane would want to alienate the very people who have made him rich and famous. Unless he doesn’t want to have to make another Ted movie. The laziness of this one suggests he didn’t even want to make this one.