'Daddy's Home 2'
There are laughs in ‘Daddy’s Home 2’, just like the original – enough to make it feel like a reasonably entertaining night at the movies. There’s not much substance or purpose, though. In fact, the whole thing is just a run through the motions of a formula that barely worked the first time.
The sequel has been stretched out just enough to entertain for another 100 minutes, thanks to a Christmas setting and a double-down on daddies with some grandpas joining the cast. Basically, it’s kind of like ‘A Bad Moms Christmas’. Actually, exactly like it, only with dudes this time.
In case you’ve forgotten about the original ‘Daddy’s Home’ (and chances are that you have, despite what everyone involved with this production hopes), it was about Will Ferrell’s uptight stepdad struggling to compete for the affections of his stepchildren against the force of Mark Wahlberg’s leather jacket-wearing and motorcycle-driving cool dad. Of course, by the end everyone learned to appreciate everyone else despite their differences and finally got along as a big mixed family.
In ‘Daddy’s Home 2’, Ferrell and Wahlberg are co-parenting one big happy family with awkward laughs and some slapstick tossed in. Things get complicated when everyone decides to spend Christmas together – not just because that means too many dads in the same place at the same time, but also because the granddads are coming home too. John Lithgow plays an annoyingly lovey and attentive grandpappy, while Mel Gibson plays the kinda cool and definitely womanizing former astronaut who was a deadbeat dad to Wahlberg. Intergenerational baggage and conflicting parenting techniques stew together in a winter wonderland lodge where everyone will bicker for laughs until they get over their difference for sentiment. There are no surprises within the formula. It’s exactly what you’d expect from the first frame to the last.
Even though the movie plays out with the weary and dreary laziness of a particularly bad Adam Sandler comedy when it comes to plotting and sentimentality, some fun can be had. Co-writer/director Sean Anders doesn’t pretend for a second that he’s creating art. He barely even seems concerned with telling a story. (At one point, he makes a joke about the fact that a character was forgotten in a previous scene and then returns to him being surrounded by wolves. As an audience, you don’t notice either because characters are only relevant when there’s plot information to convey or a punchline to deliver.) The movie knows that it’s not breaking ground or saying anything interesting. It’s just a joke delivery system populated by performers who can get those jokes across the finish line. A more interesting movie likely could have been made that actually delved into issues related to mixed families, fragile male friendships, and the ways parents pass their best and worst qualities to their children whether they intend to or not. The same cast could have even delivered that movie. But this ain’t that movie. This is ‘Daddy’s Home 2’.
Hey, there are certain charms to being ‘Daddy’s Home 2’. Like all movies made under Will Ferrell and Adam McKay’s Gary Sanchez banner, the flick boasts a surreal and absurdist comedy spirit. It’s the sort of movie where a cell phone tower is chopped down by mistake as a Christmas tree and everyone uses it anyway. Will Farrell improvs through a scene making fun of crappy improv troops. John Lithgow gets to let loose his screeching comedy extremes and Mel Gibson slyly grins his way through a role as a dirtbag and kind of gets away with it thanks to the stunt-casting. It’s a big goofy childish romp with just enough giggly set-pieces to satisfy and a ludicrous finale involving a parody Liam Neeson X-mas action flick and an insanely ridiculous “Do They Know It’s Christmas” sing-a-long.
No, the movie isn’t art. The title ‘Daddy’s Home 2’ was the big giveaway there. However, it is a perfectly passable formulaic comedy with just enough funny people doing just enough idiotic things to work. In that way, it’s exactly like ‘A Bad Moms Christmas’. Neither comedy sequel should work, but enough funny people limp through the holiday comedy clichés to provide some chuckles. Both movies will play best on television while you’re sucking down eggnog and trying to ignore your family on a desperately needed vacation in the cold winter months. The theatrical releases are just a stepping stone to endless cable syndication for people willing to watch anything with laughs and a Christmas setting.