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TED 2

***

DIRECTED BY Seth MacFarlane

STARS Mark Wahlberg, Seth MacFarlane

As a huge fan of 2012’s Ted, the box office smash that found writer-director Seth MacFarlane lending his voice to a talking teddy bear, let me just say that the prospect of a sequel excited me more before the release of MacFarlane’s 2014 bomb A Million Ways to Die in the West, a comedy so relentlessly unfunny that it seemed possible the antagonistic auteur would be exposed as a cinematic one-hit wonder.

Happily, MacFarlane largely bounces back with Ted 2, which may not match its predecessor but does contain enough of a comic kick to make it a worthwhile diversion. In this outing, Ted and fellow grocery store cashier Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth) get married even as Ted’s best bud John (Mark Wahlberg) is still smarting over his divorce from Lori (in other words, Ted co-star Mila Kunis is MIA). But John stirs himself to action when it turns out that the US government plans to designate Ted not as a “person” but as “property,” thereby stripping him of all his rights.

Together, the pair seek legal aid, finally acquiring the services of Samantha (Amanda Seyfried), a pot-smoking junior attorney whose intelligence regarding the law is matched only by her ignorance of film and television references (she’s never heard of Clubber Lang or Gollum and confuses Star Wars with Star Trek).

The charm of Ted is that it never took itself too seriously; the problem with Ted 2 is that it does. As Ted fights for his rights, MacFarlane turns up the drama, seeking by any means necessary – even acquiring the services of Morgan Freeman to play a civil-rights lawyer – to compare Ted’s plight with that of other persecuted groups in this country, such as blacks and gays. But it’s hard to take such grandstanding seriously in a movie that also finds time to have John get accidentally covered from head to toe in semen.

Ted 2 also suffers from a touch of sequelitis, as MacFarlane lazily brings back the first picture’s nutty Donny (Giovanni Ribisi) to provide some late-inning menace.

Still, what counts most in a comedy is the laugh ratio, and Ted 2 comes out blazing and rarely runs out of ammo. Ted and John are as likably lunk-headed as ever, Seyfried’s Samantha matches up nicely with the guys, and at least two of the cameo appearances really deliver. Plus, any movie that stages its climactic set-piece at Comic Con clearly has its furry finger on the pop-culture zeitgeist.

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