Director: Seth MacFarlane
Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Seth MacFarlane (voice)
3 (out of 5) Globes
“Ted 2” has a Charlie Hebdo joke. Of course it does, because it’s by Seth MacFarlane, but for the record it’s not just an offensive gag about a tragic event that’s still pretty raw. It’s not even really a joke about Charlie Hebdo. Its only purpose is to shock, eliciting gasps and maybe an angry response. But more than others of its kind, this joke — and many of the other tasteless and/or un-PC yuks in “Ted 2” — is truly up-front about only riling feathers and absolutely nothing else. There are race jokes, gay panic jokes, jokes about 9/11 and Robin Williams and, perhaps less jarringly, jokes about Amanda Seyfried’s large eyes. And most if not all of them exist solely to raise eyebrows and break monocles. They’re almost good-natured, even sweet, in their sometimes messed-up way.
Also worth noting: better these than, say, a set piece involving a stockroom of semen and a slippery floor. Indeed, “Ted 2” — like much of MacFarlane’s work — is extremely hit-and-miss, throwing out gags that are by turns creative, loopy and far too easy. Once again, there’s plenty of weed humor, where the presence of weed itself is supposed to be the joke. There’s a sequence where Ted drives a car. (He doesn’t drive it well.) These are all time-wasters, but they’re surrounded by MacFarlane’s more rarified gifts, for inspired loopiness and riffing. A thumb-twiddling set piece can be mostly forgiven if it’s preceded by the MacFarlane-voiced sentient teddy bear launching into a brief, impromptu rendition of “Tiny Dancer” for the thinnest possible reason. Even casting Dennis Haysbert as a fertility clinic doctor is a weird kind of funny.
MacFarlane never met a pop culture reference — particularly an ’80s or ’90s pop culture reference — he didn’t pounce on, and sure enough he grants another couple appearances to “Ted 1” standout Sam J. Jones, he of 1980’s “Flash Gordon.” But the rest is unnecessarily original. Here, Ted, wanting to save his marriage (to a trashy Jessica Barth) by adopting, finds that legally he doesn’t count as a person. So begins the quest, with the help of a young, inexperienced, clumsy, pop culture illiterate (but perennially toking, natch) lawyer, played by a semi-utilized Seyfried, to prove his personhood. He’s also being once again pursued by Giovanni Ribisi’s creepy guy, but it can’t all be fresh. (Oh, and before we forget entirely, Mark Wahlberg’s John is there too, really mostly for ad-lib purposes and a little bit of heart.)