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'Ted 2" opens with Ted, the foul-mouthed Teddy bear who starred in Seth MacFarlane's raunchy 2012 smash "Ted," marrying the girl of his dreams. "I'm going to go '50 Shades of Bear' on you tonight," he tells his bride, illustrating the depth of humor MacFarlane is utilizing in this lazy, phoned-in follow-up.

"Ted 2" doesn't get much better, or try much harder, than "50 Shades of Bear." Take a warmed-over pop culture reference already pushing its expiration date, twist it by putting it in the mouth of a Teddy bear (voiced by MacFarlane) and serve it to the people. Is it funny? Is it even a joke? Doesn't matter; "Ted 3" is probably already in the works.

"Ted 2" slogs along at a laborious pace with set piece after set piece designed solely to keep the running time going. The movie's holy trinity of humor revolves around Boston, the male anatomy and homophobia, and in some sequences — including one involving New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady — it manages to mash all three together. Huzzah! Semen jokes abound, porn gags are high-fived over. Fraternities will sing its praises for years.

But only in rare instances does it push past the lowest common denominator. Writer/director MacFarlane, who penned the script with Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild, thinks making a Teddy bear say inappropriate things is the height of comedy. It wasn't the first time around, though its $550 million worldwide gross said many people thought otherwise. "Ted 2" is designed to keep the boat afloat and ride the high tide.

There are occasional flashes that MacFarlane wants more. His affinity for Old Hollywood glitz and glamour is displayed in the dazzling opening credits sequence, which plays like a Busby Berkeley musical, and finds Ted dancing alongside a chorus line of tuxedo-clad guys and dolled-up gals. There are no jokes and no attempts to undercut the scene, it's a straight up homage to yesteryear. But the bubble is soon burst and we're back to jokes about weed and porn, which are about as fresh as the old "Family Guy" scripts from which they likely originated.

The movie centers on Ted's attempts to be recognized as a human, which MacFarlane uncomfortably uses to draw parallels to Dred Scott and the legalization of gay marriage. Ted and his best bud John (a glazed-over Mark Wahlberg) hire a young lawyer (a slumming Amanda Seyfried) who tries his case, but only when the movie feels like focusing on that storyline does any of it matter. Elsewhere there's a road trip, some celebrity cameos, a side plot about a creep who wants to kidnap Ted (Giovanni Ribisi, returning from the first film), a sequence at New York Comic Con — anything to keep things moving. The stakes are kept low and the humor is scattershot, with a surprising number of jokes landing with loud, empty thuds.

For a movie that pretends to address issues of what it means to be human, "Ted 2" is soulless at its core, a pure product. It's "50 Shades of Bear," and they're all drab.

agraham@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/grahamorama

'Ted 2'

GRADE: D+

Rated R: for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, and some drug use

Running time: 108 minutes

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