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‘Ted 2’: Bear turns unbearable in preachy sequel

The thing about Ted is, he’s a jerk.

Yes, it’s quite a thing — a talking, beer-swilling, pot-smoking, foul-mouthed teddy bear interacting with the humans of Boston, working as a cashier, even falling in love with and marrying a hot and trashy woman who is crazy about him even though he doesn’t have a…

Driver’s license.

It’s a testimony to Seth MacFarlane’s wonderfully twisted imagination and to the special effects that we pretty much buy into the character of Ted as he engages in juvenile hijinks with his best friend John (Mark Wahlberg), cracks wise about pop culture, spends much of his time chasing the perfect high and insults the majority of people he encounters.

That’s the problem. The first time Ted makes a joke about Amanda Seyfried’s character and her big eyes, it’s startling and hilarious. The second time, it’s just flat and unfunny.

The third time, Ted just comes across as cruel.

Of course, Ted has redeeming qualities, including his undying loyalty to John. Ted’s obviously a lot more human than teddy bear — which is the launching point for the overwrought, disappointingly preachy story line in “Ted 2.” In between the expected battery of gay jokes, poop jokes, sex jokes, drug jokes and more sex jokes, “Ted 2” stops for speechifying about the close-minded being on the wrong side of history, and how the talking bear should be treated as an equal, just like gays and minorities and everyone else who was once treated like a second-class citizen.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t come to a “Ted” movie expecting to see Morgan Freeman delivering a courtroom soliloquy about the traits that define a human being.

So here’s what’s what. After Ted marries the gum-cracking, sexually voracious, good-hearted Tami–Lynn (Jessica Barth), their marriage quickly goes sour. Within a year, he’s sitting at the kitchen table in their crummy apartment, swilling beers, grumbling about Tami-Lynn’s spending habits and calling her a “whore.”

See what I mean about the jerk thing? The more time we spend Ted, the less we like him.

Ted and Tami-Lynn decide to adopt, thinking a child will save their marriage, and that leads to the inevitable sperm-donor scenes — one involving Tom Brady as Tom Brady, another featuring John covered in, um, unfortunate humor. The process leads to a series of red flags, resulting in Ted losing his job, seeing his marriage declared null and in a courtroom trying to prove he’s not property. He’s a real boy. Man. Human.

Seyfried plays a young attorney named Samantha, who represents Ted in his case, shares Ted and John’s addiction to pot and becomes a possible love interest for John. (When we pick up the action in “Ted 2,” John is divorced from Mila Kunis’ Lori. Which kind of puts a sour spin on the whole story from the original film.) Seyfried’s a gamer, mostly playing the straight woman as Ted and John bicker and banter and slapstick it all over the place.

Director and co-writer MacFarlane is fearless, but jokes aimed at the Kardashians and Justin Bieber feel warmed-over at this point, and even some of the funnier set pieces (one involving an improv troupe) seem apart from the movie and utterly irrelevant. Even a celebrity cameo featuring a major star lampooning his recent film roles goes nowhere. And a climactic scene at Comic-Con feels like a wasted opportunity.

Wahlberg does have chemistry with Ted, which IS kind of amazing given Ted’s a combination of MacFarlane’s voice and a stuffed animal and CGI magic. And every 15 minutes or so, I got a hearty so-wrong-it’s-right laugh out of a visual gag or a cringe-inducing bit of dialogue.

Mostly though, “Ted 2” feels like far too many other sequels: born of box office expectations more than a bona fide reason to return to the characters we loved the first time around.

[s3r star=2/4]

Universal Pictures presents a film directed by Seth MacFarlane and written by MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild. Running time: 116 minutes. Rated R (for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, and some drug use). Opens Friday at local theaters.