For what it is, “Ted 2” is actually a pretty good movie. The problem is that what it is is, well, kind of awful.
And yes, OK, awfully funny too, at least at times — especially if you’re the sort of person who can’t help laughing at the obnoxious antics of a drunken, pot-smoking, potty-mouthed, scatologically inclined talking teddy bear.
Like its predecessor, and like last year’s “A Million Ways to Die in the West,” which also was written and directed by “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane, “Ted 2” is a cartoonish, foul-mouthed escapade that leaves no profanity unspoken, no vulgarity unexplored, no sexual innuendo unpacked, no bodily fluid untouched.
Many of the particulars of its humor cannot even be described in a family newspaper. Most of it is inappropriate for children; much of it is also, arguably, inappropriate for adults.
No, this is a movie aimed squarely at the tastes of adolescent males: Its jokes are principally concerned with varieties of drugs and booze and complicated sex acts and unmentionable body parts and fluids and all the possible permutations in which these R-rated, parentally unapproved elements might be combined.
On this front, some credit is due. The movie’s scatological imagination is impressive, expansive, and even surprising, at least in the sense that it plumbs depths of poor taste that you probably never imagined existed. It offers obscenities that go an order of magnitude beyond obscenity; compared to this movie, most poor taste is in rather good taste.
Indeed, the movie’s sense of shock value, and its energetic willingness to flagrantly violate taboos of tact and decency, are part of its pitch, and for those so inclined, one of the keys to its appeal.
The movie’s best bits, however, are not its forays into the unmentionable and the unprintable.
Instead, the movie comes most alive when it wanders off into gentle absurdities — an enthusiastically choreographed ballroom dancing number that backs its opening credits, an ‘80s-style musical montage interlude in a library, a delightfully bizarre grocery store run-in with a mysterious character played by Liam Neeson attempting to surreptitiously buy a box of Trix cereal, an encounter with a character played by Morgan Freeman that begins with the line, “I want to sleep on a bed made of your voice.”
The movie also includes the most unexpectedly hilarious use of the “Jurassic Park” soundtrack you’ll ever see.
These bits, and others like them, are scattered throughout the movie like pebbles in a giant puddle of bodily fluids. They are funny, genuinely clever, and entirely devoid of the movie’s overriding pornographic gusto. They are also, almost without exception, entirely beside the point. Most of them have no bearing on the movie’s plot, such that it is, and no reason to exist — except, of course, to make you laugh.
The movie’s story, however, is its weakest element, and the moments spent serving the plot are the movie’s least engaging.
That plot involves Ted (voiced and “acted” via computer-animated motion capture by Mr. MacFarlane), the foul-mouthed talking teddy bear of the title, finding out that he has been legally deemed “property” rather than a person, and going to court to fight for his rights.
He is joined in his quest by his childhood friend John (Mark Wahlberg), who wished him into life, and by junior lawyer Samantha (Amanda Seyfried), who takes his case.
Returning from the first film is Giovanni Ribisi as Donny, a creepy janitor plotting to make Ted his own, and Jessica Barth, as Tami-Lynn, who, during the predictably profane opening wedding sequence, becomes Ted’s wife.
None of the performances stand out except to the extent that they display a willingness to withstand the movie’s many comedic abuses.
Like its predecessor, “Ted 2” appears to be designed as something of a trap: You can cheer it on for its unapologetically, unpolitically-correct humor, or you can scold it for its debased worldview, its cheap indecencies and taunting outrages, its frat-bro tendencies and its overtly button-pushing attempt to connect itself to the civil rights movement.
The movie is, in a sense, daring viewers to see it as a kind of cultural statement, and to take sides accordingly.
Better to not take the bait. “Ted 2” is often funny, occasionally clever, and frequently risible, almost always on purpose. It doesn’t have to be anything more.
TITLE: “Ted 2”
CREDITS: Directed by Seth MacFarlane; written by MacFarlane and Alex Sulkin
RATING: R for vulgarity, sexuality
RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes
MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS