One joke in “Ted 2" potentially offends women, African Americans, couples struggling with infertility, sufferers of blood disorders, people who make medical shelving and the Kardashians. I laughed so hard at it that I waited for security to emerge from the theater aisles, escort me out and force me to watch sensitivity training videos with my eyes propped open like Malcolm McDowell’s character in “A Clockwork Orange.”
What does it mean that I responded so strongly to this joke? Surely I will burn. But maybe so will you, because while “Ted 2" is absurd and occasionally disgusting, it is also wickedly funny.
This sequel to the 2012 R-rated comedy about a magical, pot-smoking teddy bear reunites the appealing, computer-animated character voiced by writer-director Seth MacFarlane with his human best friend, the joyfully doltish John (Mark Wahlberg). Together they embody the comedy truths that a cute, cuddly toy can get away with anything and a Boston accent is inherently entertaining.
With a fuzzy bear Busby Berkeley number, a “Breakfast Club” homage and impassioned courtroom speeches that could be delivered by Atticus Finch, “Ted 2" is also surprisingly earnest. The movie’s singular, high-low tone springs from MacFarlane’s strange, fecund brain, the same one that brought us the ribald animated TV show “Family Guy,” the odd comedy western “A Million Ways to Die in the West” and the controversial Oscar night ode “We Saw Your Boobs.”
The too-shaggy plot gets in motion after Ted marries brassy, gum-chewing grocery checkout girl Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth) and, despite the plush toy groom’s anatomical challenges, they decide to have a child, enlisting a now divorced and depressed John in an attempted sperm heist. When that fails, a bid for adoption leads to questions about Ted’s legal status, and they meet newbie lawyer Samantha, a loopy Amanda Seyfried.
Samantha’s one maddening character flaw as far as Ted and John are concerned is her pop-culture cluelessness; she knows her Dred Scott v. Sandford but not her starship Enterprise v. Millennium Falcon. Like MacFarlane’s Oscar night musical number many misinterpreted as a sexist joke at the expense of the actresses it featured, Ted and John’s irritation is a comment on their puerile value system, not Samantha’s.
That’s a tricky needle to thread, and MacFarlane doesn’t always manage it. When Ted watches “Roots” and likens his own struggle to Kunta Kinte’s brutal whipping, the butt of the joke is meant to be Ted, not the human misery of slavery. But the thing about human misery is, it’s kind of hard to breeze by.
The brazen performance of black female comic Cocoa Brown, who plays a fellow cashier at the grocery store where Ted and Tami-Lynn work, is like a one-woman rebuttal to that scene, delivering a tart history of slavery. More of her voice would have helped the movie in many ways.
While the first “Ted” was an origins story, the sequel expands on Ted’s uncertain place in the world, with John continuing his role as straight man and loyal, idiotic co-conspirator. The overstuffed story takes one too many detours — including an inane set piece at New York Comic-Con — and the ubiquitous Hasbro product placement is distracting. The movie’s best jokes are simple and visual, like the sight of Ted dressed in rain gear to procure Tom Brady’s sperm.
Though several celebrity cameos in “Ted 2" are apt to spark some chatter, the movie’s silent heroes are the character animators who created its leading man. Like Carroll O’Connor’s Archie Bunker or Jackie Gleason’s Ralph Kramden, it is the sweetness of the performance, the communication of sadness or hurt with the lift of a furry eyebrow or swat of a paw, that lends the horrible words coming out of Ted’s mouth their texture and pathos.
In the courtroom, when Ted drops a slur for gay men, and then another, in a misguided attempt to link his civil rights struggle with theirs, only a blind person could think he actually hates gay people. He’s ignorant, yes, but he’s not a bigot.
It’s a conundrum of MacFarlane’s career that he depends on viewers to grasp the nuance of that moment at the same time that they should be the kind of people who genuinely enjoy a good Kardashian joke. How much does the Venn diagram of those two groups overlap? I don’t know. I just know I’m in it. Please don’t call security.
Rated R, for crude and sexual content, pervasive language and some drug use
Running time: 108 minutes
Playing: In wide release