Prude alert! “Ted 2” is profane, socially incorrect, pro-pot, irreverent, deliberately obnoxious and packed to the end credits with decadent jokes that are not legally quotable in most states. It mocks sacred cows like Robin Williams, 9/11 and Charlie Hebdo. It is deliberately crass.
Wisenheimer advice: Don’t miss this one, it’s a riot.
The follow-up to 2012’s “Ted,” one of my favorite anything-goes comedies of the decade, extends the prankish original to new levels of cheesy genius. Mark Wahlberg returns as John, who, as a lonely Boston boy, wished that his stuffed teddy bear would become his real best friend and got his request. Co-writer/director/vocal co-star Seth MacFarlane again plays the animated animal, who entered adulthood less sensitive and adorable than he was in his cuddly youth. While the pair do remain buddies forever, their connection has the kind of bong-fueled bro humor you hear when lowbrows get high.
In this chapter, John is divorced from Lori (Mila Kunis), who he married at the end of the previous episode, and a bit dejected by his return to solitude. Ted and his hottie blue-collar bride Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth, who does much with a very little role) face their own problems.
Their efforts to have a child are rather tricky since Ted lacks a male appendage. John’s assistance sets off a downpour of bodily fluid jokes that range from an overflow at a local sperm clinic to burglarizing Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s bedroom. As before, there are cool celebrity cameos throughout.
Ultimately, Ted’s quest for a child triggers a legal battle as the state of Massachusetts aims to revoke the plushy toy’s citizenship because he isn’t a real person. A courtroom clash like a giddy lampoon of “Law & Order” finds Ted without his marriage rights, employment and pizza delivery discount card. Watching a rebroadcast of “Roots” where LeVar Burton’s slave character Kunta Kinte is introduced to life in the colonies with a whip, Ted says, “See, that’s just like me!”
Before you can say Plessy vs. Ferguson, Brown vs. Board of Education or Dred Scott (and the film does), the issue that everyone should be treated equally becomes the main theme. Rachel Dolezal and Caitlyn Jenner don’t show up in the mix, maybe because they hit the headlines too late. In their place we have Amanda Seyfried as a new lawyer who takes on the case for free because it defends justice – and Wahlberg is cute compared with most Boston losers. And yeah, she likes cannabis, too. Morgan Freeman lampoons the wisdom-heavy parts he often plays as a lawyer who represents clients against racial discrimination.
This is MacFarlane balancing the film’s heavy use of tribal humor – there is not a subset of society the film doesn’t ridicule – and its well-meaning heart. MacFarlane grabs every example of political censorship and progressive guilt it can find and sets them afire, but at the same time offers positive representations of diverse groups.
Whenever someone stereotypes others in the film, it’s that idiot who’s the butt of the gag. “Ted 2” doesn’t walk on eggshells carefully, it stomps them. It’s reminding us that we’re all juggling problems, and making fun of ourselves is a part of dealing with that. Dadaist absurdity like this is a rare gift in an era when ethnically offensive laughs are increasingly considered off limits.
Yes, at times it pushes its jet-black, race-based, sexist jokes a smidgen too far. Sure, the plotting is stubbornly spotty, and at times its gags are too tossed away to make the impression they deserve. OK, at nearly two hours it’s a good 15 minutes too long. But I wouldn’t cut the countless left-turn subplots.
Why lose that opening with a multimillion-dollar tribute to Busby Berkeley dance extravaganzas?
Or stop Seyfried singing MacFarlane’s fine new love song “Mean ol’ Moon” while woodland creatures from across the world drop by to listen?
Or remove that battle royal at New York’s Comic Con that riffs off every science fiction movie of the last half century?
It kept me happy until the last moment of the long end credits, and if you’re lucky it’ll do the same for you.
“TED 2,” starring Mark Wahlberg, Seth MacFarlane and Amanda Seyfried. Directed by Seth MacFarlane. Written by MacFarlane and Alec Sulkin. A Universal Pictures release. Rated R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language and some drug use.