The foul-mouthed stuffed animal returns in ‘Ted 2’

Mike D'Angelo

Three stars

Ted 2 Mark Wahlberg, Amanda Seyfried, voice of Seth MacFarlane. Directed by Seth MacFarlane. Rated R. Opens Friday.

Seth MacFarlane doesn’t make movies so much as he fashions longer, more elaborate containers for his random riffs and pop-culture references than his long-running animated TV series Family Guy allows. At the same time, though, he seems to provide his actors with a uniquely relaxed atmosphere that brings out their shaggier side. (Odd, given that he began his career in animation and tends to be a rather stiff performer himself when using more than just his voice.)

Ted was a decidedly hit-and-miss affair, joke-wise, but Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis had real chemistry together—their characters genuinely seemed to like each other, above and beyond the dictates of the script—and the parallel bromance between Wahlberg’s man-child John and MacFarlane’s lewd talking teddy bear was equally effortless. Even the most arbitrary gags felt like they had a context.

Sadly, Kunis’ Lori is absent from the inevitable Ted 2, which barely acknowledges that she ever existed (even though she married John at the end of the first movie; they’re now divorced). MacFarlane has found a worthy replacement, however, in Amanda Seyfried, who plays a civil-rights attorney Ted hires to represent him in the stuffed-animal equivalent of the Dred Scott trial. Having found his own sweetheart, the sublimely trailer-trashy Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth), Ted now wants to have a child, but he lacks the necessary anatomical details.

When he and Tami-Lynn try to adopt (following a couple of inane artificial-insemination schemes—one of which involves Tom Brady, playing himself), the state of Massachusetts informs Ted that he is technically not a person but property, meaning that he has no rights whatsoever. The movie then turns into an extended courtroom drama that’s nearly as earnest as it is parodic, at times seeming to be halfway serious about comparing Ted’s plight to the horrors of African-American slavery.

Still, Ted 2, like its predecessor, is mostly just an excuse for MacFarlane to throw out as many crass, knowing punchlines as he can in the hope that some of them will stick. The sequel relies more on Family Guy-style allusions to other movies, and it unwisely brings back Giovanni Ribisi as Donny, who again wants to kidnap Ted and again threatens to stop the film cold every time he appears. When John and Ted are just hanging out and busting each other’s chops, however, the charm remains intact. And Seyfried is more than appealing enough to make the loss of Kunis tolerable. She even manages to overcome MacFarlane’s typically goofy decision to name her character Samantha L. Jackson.

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