When kids play with one of your Nerf toys, or adults sit down with your classic board game Clue, their goal is to turn off part of their brains and just enjoy themselves for an hour or two. The same is true of stupid comedies. Maybe this is why it makes sense that you’re a part of the stoner buddy-movie sequel Ted 2. Who would know better than you that sometimes people just want to have fun without searching for some deeper purpose? And yet, surprisingly, there are moments when Ted 2 manages to do both.
The original 2012 movie, Ted, was about the bond between man-child John Bennett and his best friend, a stuffed bear who magically came to life when John was 8 years-old. As adults, John and Ted are lovable slackers grappling with the future of their friendship. Ted 2 picks up three years after the end of the first film, and focuses on Ted and his brassy wife Tami-Lynn’s attempts to have a child. In order to do so, Ted must go to court to legally establish himself as a living person so that he can be recognized by the government of the United States, and not merely as property.
For a children’s toy company, you took a big Risk (pun wholly intended) participating in a raunchy R-rated flick. Not only do you lend your company name and products to the film, but you’re an integral part of the plot. While Ted’s civil rights trial is heating up, his creeptastic stalker, Donnie (now a janitor at Hasbro), hatches a scheme to rig Ted’s trial so he loses and will be legally considered property. Donnie convinces your CEO to go along with his plot, and to kidnap Ted after the trial. Then Hasbro can dissect him to find out how he became “real” and manufacture billions of Teds.
Sound ridiculous? Of course it is. It’s a movie about a dirty-talking, pot-smoking Teddy bear. But it’s no more ridiculous than your Furby dolls, and people love those stupid things. Writer/Producer/Director Seth MacFarlane goes back to the hilariously vulgar trough that supplied many of the laughs in the first film, including pop culture references, celebrity cameos, and defiant political incorrectness. If homages to films like Jurassic Park and Planes, Trains and Automobiles, scenes of Liam Neeson buying cereal, and Ted sarcastically comparing his struggle to that of Kunta Kinte doesn’t entertain you, it might be better for you to spend your evening playing an endless game of Monopoly (which you should know will invariably end with one of your friends screaming “fuck this!” and flipping the board over).
Even when the film takes a moral stand – and it does make some salient points about human rights and the concept of personhood – it does so with tongue planted firmly in furry cheek. Patrick Stewart’s narration reminds us right at the beginning of the film that “America doesn’t give a shit about anything.” Except, maybe, corporations making money. And you certainly took advantage of your position, Hasbro, showing off many of your products. One of the film’s major locations is the New York Comicon, where you are boldly represented by giant Transformers, Nerf guns, and Play-Doh displays. Usually this kind of brazen product placement sours my palate, but I was too busy laughing at the nerd fight involving characters like Daleks, Gollum, and Doc and Marty from Back to the Future. Patrick Warburton, who reprises his role as the gay dude-bro Guy, shows up dressed exactly as you would expect Patrick Warburton to dress. There’s nothing your aggressive branding could have done to undermine that image.
Even though there’s not much new in this installment, beyond the addition of Amanda Seyfried as Ted’s pot smoking lawyer (and John’s eventual love interest) Samantha, it’s still fun to go slumming in Ted and John’s world—for 115 minutes, at least. Yes, Ted is a CGI invention, but somehow he and Mark Wahlberg manage to have better chemistry than most humans in a buddy-comedy are able to generate. They have a shorthand that feels familiar. They’re the kind of like friends you’d get drunk and play Jenga with—just not very often. Sometimes giving people exactly what they expect isn’t such a bad thing (but as the co-owners of the Transformers movie franchise, I surely don’t have to tell you that).
One of the best things about playing your board games as an adult is that it reminds me of how much fun I had playing them as a kid. In a predictably inappropriate way, Ted 2 invoked a similar response. In the 80s, R-Rated comedies – Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Blues Brothers, Caddyshack – had something many of today’s R-Rated comedies are missing: a bit of heart. And Ted 2, despite its immaturity and vulgarity, manages to slip in some warm and fuzzies. When Ted’s case makes it to the Supreme Court, his high-profile lawyer (in a cameo that should remain unnamed) reminds him that, “the public doesn’t judge by reason, it judges by emotion.”
So, thanks for all the toys and board games that allowed me to goof off during my childhood, and for contributing to the two hours I wasted on Ted 2.
But that still doesn’t mean you’re off the hook for what you did to Black Widow.