OVER­STUFFED

‘ Ted 2’ s’ shaggy bear story is of­fen­sive and ab­surd but also wickedly funny as Seth MacFar­lane and Mark Wahlberg re­turn

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - By Re­becca Kee­gan

One joke in “Ted 2” po­ten­tially of­fends women, African Amer­i­cans, cou­ples strug­gling with in­fer­til­ity, suf­fer­ers of blood dis­or­ders, peo­ple who make med­i­cal shelv­ing and the Kar­dashi­ans. I laughed so hard at it that I waited for se­cu­rity to emerge from the theater aisles, es­cort me out and force me to watch sen­si­tiv­ity train­ing videos with my eyes propped open like Mal­colm McDow­ell’s char­ac­ter in “A Clockwork Or­ange.”

What does it mean that I re­sponded so strongly to this joke? Surely I will burn. But maybe so will you, be­cause while “Ted 2” is ab­surd and oc­ca­sion­ally dis­gust­ing, it is also wickedly funny.

This se­quel to the 2012 R- rated com­edy about a mag­i­cal, potsmok­ing teddy bear re­unites the ap­peal­ing, com­puter- an­i­mated char­ac­ter voiced by writer- di­rec­tor Seth MacFar­lane with his hu­man best friend, the joy­fully doltish John ( Mark Wahlberg). To­gether they em­body the com­edy truths that a cute, cud­dly toy can get away with any­thing and a Bos­ton ac­cent is in­her­ently en­ter­tain­ing.

With a fuzzy bear Busby Berke­ley num­ber, a “Break­fast Club” homage and im­pas­sioned court­room speeches that could be de­liv­ered by At­ti­cus Finch, “Ted 2” is also sur­pris­ingly earnest.

The movie’s sin­gu­lar, high- low tone springs from MacFar­lane’s strange, fe­cund brain, the same one that brought us the rib­ald an­i­mated TV show “Fam­ily Guy,” the odd com­edy western “A Mil­lion Ways to Die in the West” and the con­tro­ver­sial Os­car night ode “We Saw Your Boobs.”

The too- shaggy plot gets in mo­tion af­ter Ted mar­ries brassy, gum-

chew­ing gro­cery check­out girl Tami- Lynn ( Jes­sica Barth) and, de­spite the plush toy groom’s anatom­i­cal chal­lenges, they de­cide to have a child, en­list­ing a now di­vorced and de­pressed John in an at­tempted sperm heist. When that fails, a bid for adop­tion leads to ques­tions about Ted’s le­gal sta­tus, and they meet new­bie lawyer Sa­man­tha, a loopy Amanda Seyfried.

Sa­man­tha’s one mad­den­ing char­ac­ter f law as far as Ted and John are con­cerned is her pop- cul­ture clue­less­ness; she knows her Dred Scott v. Sand­ford but not her star­ship En­ter­prise v. Mil­len­nium Fal­con. Like MacFar­lane’s Os­car night mu­si­cal num­ber many mis­in­ter­preted as a sex­ist joke at the ex­pense of the ac- tresses it fea­tured, Ted and John’s ir­ri­ta­tion is a com­ment on their puerile value sys­tem, not Sa­man­tha’s.

That’s a tricky nee­dle to thread, and MacFar­lane doesn’t al­ways man­age it. When Ted watches “Roots” and likens his own strug­gle to Kunta Kinte’s bru­tal whip­ping, the butt of the joke is meant to be Ted, not the hu­man mis­ery of slav­ery. But the thing about hu­man mis­ery is, it’s kind of hard to breeze by.

The brazen per­for­mance of black fe­male comic Co­coa Brown, who plays a fel­low cashier at the gro­cery store where Ted and Tami- Lynn work, is like a one- woman re­but­tal to that scene, de­liv­er­ing a tart history of slav­ery. More of her voice would have helped the movie in many

ways.

While the f irst “Ted” was an ori­gins story, the se­quel ex­pands on Ted’s un­cer­tain place in the world, with John con­tin­u­ing his role as straight man and loyal, id­i­otic co- con­spir­a­tor. The over­stuffed story takes one too many de­tours — in­clud­ing an inane set piece at New York Comic- Con — and the ubiq­ui­tous Has­bro prod­uct place­ment is dis­tract­ing. The movie’s best jokes are sim­ple and vis­ual, like the sight of Ted dressed in rain gear to pro­cure Tom Brady’s sperm.

Though sev­eral celebrity cameos in “Ted 2” are apt to spark some chat­ter, the movie’s silent he­roes are the char­ac­ter an­i­ma­tors who cre­ated its lead­ing man. Like Car­roll O’Con­nor’s Archie Bunker or Jackie Glea­son’s Ralph Kram­den, it is the sweet­ness of the per­for­mance, the com­mu­ni­ca­tion of sad­ness or hurt with the lift of a furry eye­brow or swat of a paw, that lends the hor­ri­ble words com­ing out of Ted’s mouth their tex­ture and pathos.

In the court­room, when Ted drops a slur for gay men, and then another, in a mis­guided at­tempt to link his civil rights strug­gle with theirs, only a blind per­son could think he ac­tu­ally hates gay peo­ple. He’s ig­no­rant, yes, but he’s not a bigot.

It’s a co­nun­drum of MacFar­lane’s ca­reer that he de­pends on view­ers to grasp the nu­ance of that mo­ment at the same time that they should be the kind of peo­ple who gen­uinely en­joy a good Kar­dashian joke. How much does the Venn di­a­gram of those two groups over­lap? I don’t know. I just know I’m in it. Please don’t call se­cu­rity.

Uni­ver­sal Pic­tures

JOHN ( MARK WAHLBERG)

and Ted ( voiced by Seth MacFar­lane) keep their friend­ship go­ing through life changes in “Ted 2.”

TED ( VOICED BY

Seth MacFar­lane) and John ( Mark Wahlberg) catch up over a few beers in “Ted 2.”

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