Critical Mass: Ted 2 mixes low-brow with lower-brow humor

In Ted, John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) was attempting to grow up and maintain a real job/relationship/life while his “thunder buddy for life” roommate, a magical cursing/smoking/humping bear, tempted him with hedonistic pleasures that held him back. But at the beginning of Ted 2, it’s the stuffed bear that’s finally acting his age—or, at least he’s getting married.

Married life isn’t everything he thought it was, however, and when Ted and his blonde new wife, Tami-Lynn, decide that having a baby will save their relationship, Ted and John embark on a medical-cum-political adventure to find a willing donor, navigate the pitfalls of adoption, and prove to the courts that’s he’s human. Obviously, it’s all very heady stuff—especially when they hire a pretty attorney named Sam L. Jackson (Amanda Seyfried) who shares their proclivity for the bong. 

“Plenty of decent movies have been built on flimsier narrative scaffolding than Ted 2’s, but MacFarlane and writers Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild are smarter than a lot of the material they’ve come up with here,” writes EW’s Chris Nashawaty, in his C+ review. “MacFarlane, who takes such mischievous delight in thumbing his nose at the uptight guardians of political correctness that he almost seems to get off on turning himself into a target (most notably with his ‘We saw your boobs’ 2013 Oscar-hosting gig), tends to be sharper than the inoffensively offensive gags he tosses off here. Which is a shame because he’s just handing his detractors more ammo.” 

For more of Nashawaty’s review, and a sampling of other critics from across the country, scroll below:

Chris Nashawaty (Entertainment Weekly)
“The sequel still manages to walk the tightrope between clever and crass. For a while, at least. Then, after the 10th or 11th semen gag, crass wins out, leaving clever in the dust. That’s when you realize what it must be like to be trapped in detention with a bunch of 15-year-old boys who think there’s nothing more hilarious than repeating the same jokes about porn, pot, and pulling your pud over and over again. It’s funny, until it’s not.”

Mick LaSalle (San Francisco Chronicle)
“His impulses are sophomoric, but he knows where to find the punch line, and he hits it, again and again. … Watching Ted 2 is like being in the mental space of a comedy piranha, ready to devour any red meat the second it appears.”

Ann Hornaday (Washington Post) ▼ 
“As he proved with his misbegotten A Million Ways to Die in the West, MacFarlane is essentially a guy who’s gotten appallingly lucky on television. He exhibits zero proficiency in cinematic staging and no sense of pace.”

Manohla Dargis (New York Times)
Ted 2 comes off as more inept and thoughtless than intentionally hateful. The charitable take is that Mr. MacFarlane wanted to take on race (slavery—lighten up, people!) but doesn’t have the skills to do so. Less charitably, he doesn’t have the mind-set, the compassion or actual interest.”

Wesley Morris (Grantland) 
“MacFarlane doesn’t appear to believe in anything. He just likes to mess around with things that still have value without seeming to get whether that value is greater than his jokes. It’s as if he doesn’t really know what he’s laughing at or care what race and sexuality and gender are. It’s as if he doesn’t know women or black people—just white comedy writers who love to make fun of them.”

Rebecca Keegan (Los Angeles Times)
“Though several celebrity cameos in Ted 2 are apt to spark some chatter, the movie’s silent heroes are the character animators who created its leading man. Like Carroll O’Connor’s Archie Bunker or Jackie Gleason’s Ralph Kramden, it is the sweetness of the performance, the communication of sadness or hurt with the lift of a furry eyebrow or swat of a paw, that lends the horrible words coming out of Ted’s mouth their texture and pathos.”

Scott Foundas (Variety)
“Seyfried (who was one of the few bright spots in A Million Ways to Die in the West) cheerfully fields whatever new humiliation (including a running bit about her resemblance to Gollum) MacFarlane lobs her way. She brings a warmth and sweetness to the film that balances nicely against the bad-boy crudity, and even croons a lovely original ballad, ‘Mean Ol’ Moon,’ during a campfire scene set on (what else?) a marijuana farm.”

Bilge Ebiri (New York)
“The whole movie is mostly just an excuse to toss around a bunch of random jokes and see what sticks. Many of them do. And we’re supposed to forget the jokes that don’t, and the halfhearted excuse for a story, and the wink-wink echoes to the country’s dark past. The trouble is, lazy, opportunistic writing can be distracting in its own way, and there’s way too much of it in Ted 2 to fully ignore.”

Brian Truitt (USA Today)
Ted 2 locks into a nice groove whenever it’s just Ted and John being buds (and smoking bud), and Seyfried actually adds to the chemistry. If only the nonstop parade of craziness and lack of story coherence around them wasn’t so hard to bear.”

Andrew O’Hehir (Salon)
“If you’re getting the impression that Ted 2 is a pointless and deliberately absurd reworking of an idea MacFarlane pretty well wore out the first time, you would be right. Which is not to say I didn’t laugh on several occasions, including the ones where MacFarlane dares you to decide he has gone too far into patently offensive territory. … In its better, non-jizz-related moments, Ted 2 is a loosey-goosey stoner road trip with an irrelevant, appealing blend of innocence and sweetness…”

Lindsey Bahr (Associated Press)
“The misadventures of a couple of crass knuckleheads should be simple fun, and it’s quite all right to try for a more substantive story in something so trivial. But the silliness of the first has ceded to something that’s also a little more hateful and bitter.”

Overall Metacritic rating (1-100): 49
Rotten Tomatoes: 44 percent

Rated: R
Length: 115 minutes
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Seth MacFarlane, Amanda Seyfried
Directed by Seth MacFarlane
Distributor: Universal