By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Ted made us laugh –- a lot –- and Ted 2 does, too!
The foulmouthed teddy bear that won us over last year is back, with the raunchy blockbuster Ted now standing as the highest-grossing (in both senses of the word) R-rated original comedy of all time around the globe, with a box office take of over half a billion dollars.
Ted 2 is, to no one’s surprise, another vulgar, irreverent, impudent, outrageous, laugh-out-loud comedy from Seth MacFarlane, who debuted as a feature-film director with the 2012 original, which among its many iconic highlights featured one of the funniest comic fight scenes -– between a man and a teddy bear –- in movie history.
And although the sequel can’t possibly sneak up on us in terms of originality the way its predecessor did, this particular followup goes in the books as the funniest comedy of the year to date.
This is, moreover, one of those comedies well worth trying to see without having many of its delightful one-liners, sight gags, or asides ruined for you by the trailer or any enthusiastic or talkative souls who have seen the film before you.
Mark Wahlberg, in his first sequel, returns as John Bennett, the bear’s best Boston bud and lifelong “thunder bunny,” now divorced (from the character played the first time around by Mila Kunis).
And MacFarlane once again supplies the voice of the talking teddy, the computer-animated, motion-capture bear.
Amanda Seyfried climbs aboard as Samantha Leslie Jackson, the lawyer who gets romantically involved with Bennett while she takes on Ted’s case.
Ted is now married to his human girlfriend from the first film, Tami-Lynn McCafferty, played by Jessica Barth. Ted and Tami-Lynn would like to have a baby, so it looks as if they’re going to need sperm from John — still Ted’s best friend — for the artificial insemination.
And if that doesn’t work and they have to adopt, Ted must prove in court, with Samantha as his lawyer, that he’s actually human as opposed to “property.”
As before, the rib-tickling dimension that catches us watching a stuffed teddy bear talk dirty and flaunt taboos is certainly a part of the base-instinct appeal here.
But there’s something else going on as well.
Producer-director MacFarlane, mastermind of television’s animated “Family Guy” and controversial Oscars host, took time between the two Ted projects to direct the fitfully funny A Million Ways to Die in the West last year. He has, along with executive producers Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild, co-written a surprisingly sensitive script that includes a resonant plea for tolerance that is, unfortunately, downright timely.
To say nothing of the impressive Busby Berkeley-style opening production number.
And this time MacFarlane has also invited veterans Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, and Dennis Haysbert to join his supporting cast (as cameoing lawyer, customer, and doctor, respectively), while controversial pro football player Tom Brady and Flash Gordon actor Sam J. Jones turn up as themselves.
If the film is perhaps a shade too long, with at least one subplot involving a stalker (Giovanni Ribisi) that fails to live up to the standards set by the thoughtful central narrative, it’s still a rewarding laugh machine to experience, with modestly expert and seamless special effects that we take for granted.
But the bottom-line question, as with most sequels, is: how does it do walking the fine line between Being So Similar to Installment Number One That It Feels Like the Same Movie and Being So Different From Its Predecessor That It Alienates the Faithful Fans of the Original?
The answer: this buddy comedy walks that line with impressive ambitiousness and masterful control as a very funny and generously entertaining romp.
So we’ll stuff 3½ stars out of 4. Like Ted –- and perhaps on an even higher plane of accomplishment — the similarly inspired Ted 2 is an easy-to-bear kneeslapper.