Near the beginning of Ted 2, the sequel to the 2012 comedy about a teddy bear that comes to life, director Seth MacFarlane stages a production number, a song-and-dance routine that evokes memories of Busby Berkeley. Dancers glide over highly polished floors in a number (Steppin' Out With My Baby) built around men in tuxedos, a silvery chorus line and, of course, Ted.
If you don't know by now, Ted (voice by MacFarlane) is a button-cute toy and foul-mouthed resident of Boston. Ted is pals with Johnny (Mark Wahlberg), the guy who owned him as a kid and who, as an adult, has devolved into a class A schlub. Recently divorced, Johnny has an unhealthy interest in Internet porn.
The joke? The cute bear has a mouth that could make a longshoreman blush.
That gives you a clue about McFarlane's comedy. He tends to create a friendly, feel good surface and then shreds it with jokes that are profane and even purposefully offensive.
But guess what? Once was enough.
Maybe it's the moment, but I wasn't in the mood for what feels like an endless stream of jokes about black men and their private parts. Nor was I in the mood for gay jokes or sexist jokes or any of the other so-called jests that Ted 2 tries to peddle in its efforts to give political correctness a sharp poke in the eye.
The second edition opens at Ted's wedding. He's marrying bombshell Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth). The couple couldn't be happier.
The movie then flashes forward by a year.
Living in a cramped apartment Ted and Tami-Lynn are at each other's throats. With their marriage threatening to dissolve, Ted suggests that the couple have a baby.
The problem: Ted -- who began his existence as a toy -- doesn't have the one appendage that accounts for so many of the movie's jokes.
As the plot develops, Ted and Tami-Lynn learn that adoption isn't an option because Massachusetts has decided that Ted isn't human. He's property.
The movie then chronicles Ted's fight for rights, a turn that allows MacFarlane to make references to the struggle for black and gay rights. MacFarlane seems to be serious about all this, but raising important issues in this context is a bit like wearing a tuxedo to a mud-wrestling contest.
The movie's legal thrust introduces Amanda Seyfried as novice attorney Sam L. Jackson; when she's not taking hits off a bong, she represents Ted in court. MacFarlane also gives her a musical number. She sings Mean Ol Moon around a camp fire.
Then there's an entirely useless storyline in which Donny (Giovanni Ribisi), the weird half-wit from the first movie, persuades a Hasbro executive (John Carroll Lynch) to try to steal Ted, murder him and cut him open to find out what brought him to life. The plan: To make more Teds.
There's more pseudo-seriousness when Morgan Freeman shows up as a prominent civil rights lawyer who winds up playing the movie's moral anthem by telling us what makes us human in a courtroom speech.
Ted 2 is better than McFarlane's last movie, the disastrous A Million Ways to Die in the West, and there's always an audience for this kind of humor.
Me? Let's put it this way, a scene in which Wahlberg's Johnny finds himself covered with semen made the semen scene in There's Something About Mary (heaven help us we're talking semen scenes) look as if it might have been written by Oscar Wilde.
Ted 2 isn't exactly a rehash; it is, however, hash, a low-down, unsatisfying jumble.