GOING OVERBOARD: MacFarlane sinks to new depths in this festival of puerile provocation.
In the 2012 Ted, professional provocateur and comic envelope pusher Seth MacFarlane threw everything but the kitchen sink into the story of a Boston man-child and his best bud — a pothead plushie brought to life by a boyhood wish. You know how it goes with sequels: Because of the first film's unexpected success, Universal gave its director a lot more money to spend on the second. As a result, MacFarlane has thrown in not just the sink but the equivalent of an entire Home Depot.
At nearly two hours and half a dozen story lines, Ted 2 is simply too much of a so-so thing. Set shortly after its predecessor, the picture opens with the bear marrying his sweetheart, Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth), while Mark Wahlberg's John struggles to get over his divorce. Things start off promisingly enough. Ted (voiced by MacFarlane) still works at a supermarket, and his encounter with a customer played by Liam Neeson is a thing of loopy beauty.
The film quickly takes a turn for the dull and derailed, however. Ted's marriage has hit the rocks, and the unhappy couple concludes that the solution to its woes is getting a bun in Tami-Lynn's oven as rapidly as possible. Just one problem: Ted lacks the necessary equipment.
Not surprisingly, MacFarlane and "Family Guy" scribes Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild use this premise to set up a series of gags involving semen. The funniest has John and Ted sneaking into Tom Brady's bedroom to acquire a sample while he's sleeping. It's just absurd enough to work.
But then there's the tone-deaf sequence at a sperm bank in which John knocks over a shelving unit and winds up drenched in ejaculate. A nurse assures him no harm has been done. The containers he spilled were never going to be used because their donors all have sickle-cell anemia. "You're covered in rejected black guys' sperm," Ted crows. "You're like a Kardashian!" 1. Fruit doesn't hang a whole lot lower. 2. Just eww.
MacFarlane devotes the movie's second half to lodging his foot even farther into his mouth. Amanda Seyfried plays a pothead attorney who makes frequent use of a penis-shaped bong she keeps openly displayed in her office. In a swanky suite she shares with her dad. OK.
Without warning, the state declares Ted property, and Seyfried represents him in his efforts to establish his legal status as a person. The tone vacillates wildly between the sentimental (Ted must be human because he inspires John's love) and the racist (Ted likens his travails to those of slaves). Clips from "Roots" are played. References to Frederick Douglass and the Emancipation Proclamation are made. It's probably not the best time in American history for this sort of insensitivity.
The fundamental reason the second Ted doesn't work as well as the first is that MacFarlane makes the mistake of shifting the focus away from the unlikely relationship between his odd-couple buddies. Ridiculous as the whole business was even in the first film, something undeniably touching came through.
The follow-up is little more than a laundry list of shock gags. None sums up the movie better than the scene in which the gang indulges in a favorite pastime: going to an improv club and shouting out inappropriate cues to the comics squirming on stage. 9/11! Robin Williams! Robin Williams on 9/11! Charlie Hebdo! And, yes, Ferguson!
A little of that goes a long way, and there's a lot of it here. Enough that "Ted 2!" wouldn't have been entirely out of place in that lazy list of disasters.