In 1993, Andrew Dice Clay released The Day The Laughter Died Part II, the sequel to his most commercially and critically successful comedy album to that point, and the silence recorded within is deafening. Clay tries and fails to win the crowd over with his crass attempt at humor. After one too many jokes miss their mark, he begins to argue and brawl with an audience member. Listening to it is like hearing to a public execution.
While nowhere near as desperate a last gasp, Ted 2 feels a bit like a similar trial for Seth MacFarlane’s by now well-worn style of comedy. Though the teddy bear Ted is the one on trial in this movie, pleading for his personhood, the script pleas unconsciously for the continued emancipation and endurance of a dying joke. The first movie was surprisingly funny and had at heart a legitimate conflict: How can boyhood survive the trials of mature relationships and responsibilities? While John (Mark Wahlberg) tried to grow up, homunculus Ted was the crude devil on his shoulder, and their power play made for a better movie than I was led to believe.
In Ted 2, Ted is the one who has to grow up now, but he is thwarted in his attempts because he is a teddy bear and therefore a piece of property, not a person. I guess the underlying message is beautiful — anyone who can inspire such love is deserving of equal rights — but when it’s a Family Guy’s Peter Griffin frat boy replicant in a teddy bear’s clothing who is the one being considered oppressed as slaves once were, it’s not exactly comedy gold. In fact, it’s annoying, as MacFarlane has already inseminated his Family Guy episodes with some of these exact same jokes about fertility clinics and big top-hat dance numbers. It’s more than a retread; it’s an anachronism posing as a faux civil rights piece (Civil rights! What a joke, right?) surviving via the eternity of junior high boys. And since MacFarlane has made a career out of middle fingering just about everyone via his animated mouthpieces, I feel no problem raising mine in return — this movie can go screw itself.