Ted 2 Seth MacFarlane

Ted 2 Seth MacFarlane
5
On a recent appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers, Jerry Seinfeld opined that political correctness is polluting the current climate of comedy. He argued that people are so quick now to excoriate anyone for saying the wrong thing that it's damaging comedy's long-standing power to elicit laughter precisely by subverting conventions.

While it's unlikely the comedian had the uncouth titular star of Ted 2 in mind, the pot-smoking teddy bear with a penchant for cracking crude jokes and his critically reviled creator/voice Seth MacFarlane are fine examples of what Seinfeld is seeking to protect. There are some big laughs to be found throughout the sequel, and they often stem from a complete disregard for sacrosanct boundaries. Unfortunately, though, the film's scattershot approach and surprisingly schmaltzy storyline yield inconsistent results elsewhere.

After Ted's nuptials to Tami-Lynn, he quickly learns that married life isn't all it's cracked up to be. Assuming that their relationship will be improved by having a child, and with Ted lacking the necessary equipment to make this happen, he and his best bud John (Mark Wahlberg) first amusingly botch an attempt to steal Tom Brady's sperm before considering John as a prime donor candidate himself. When this option soon becomes unviable as well, an attempt at adoption leads to Ted being labeled by the government as property and not a person.

With his marriage annulled and employment terminated because of his status, he and John enlist the help of Sam L. Jackson (Amanda Seyfried), a young pothead lawyer who hopes to convince a jury that Ted's civil rights have been infringed upon. Given the fact that Mila Kunis does not return for the sequel as John's love interest, there should be little surprise when romance inevitably blossoms between Sam and the newly single John.

Like Family Guy and the rest of MacFarlane's extensive animated oeuvre, the best jokes are often the most random: Ted arguing from the witness stand in court about how he's more of a person than "soccer mom Goonies monster" Steven Tyler, or a running gag in which John's continuously denied candy that sits out on desks in offices like some sadistic trap set specifically for him. The best bit in the whole thing might even be one that's unrelated to anything in the rest of the movie, in which Liam Neeson plays up his intense persona as a man surreptitiously attempting to buy a box of Trix because he's afraid the fact that they're "for kids" could be enforced by law.

But there's probably only about a half hour's worth of story in the entire two-hour film, padded out by hit-and-miss digressions and lots and lots of dick jokes. When MacFarlane appeared on The Howard Stern Show this week to promote the film, he admitted that he and his regular co-writers Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild were forced to scrap an initial version of the sequel involving running drugs across the country when the movie We're The Millers covered similar territory first. His contention that it led them to a richer story seems strange considering how incongruously the overwrought civil rights plot fits the crass title character and that it appears to have instead resulted in abrupt shifts in tone and long lulls without jokes.

We're stuck with an unnecessary sequence where the trio crashes their car into a barn, discovers a large field of pot and Seyfried sings a little ditty on guitar that draws out all of the animals from the wild. Even the reliable Patrick Warburton flounders as one half of a gay couple that's too mean to really be funny. Worst of all, though, is the return of the slimy kidnapper Donny (Giovanni Ribisi), whose inane new plan to steal Ted, inexplicably endorsed by the head of Hasbro (John Carroll Lynch), feels too much like a rehash of the last film.

There are bound to be people who will be offended by some of the jokes — scenes in which Wahlberg is doused in black men's rejected semen at a fertility clinic (don't ask) and labeled a Kardashian by Ted are bound to ruffle a few feathers. But while one of comedy's essential purposes is to gleefully desecrate all bastions of decency, it should at least be funnier than this.

(Universal)