DADDY'S HOME 2
2017, PG-13, 100 mins.
Will Ferrell as Brad Whitaker / Mark Wahlberg as Dusty Mayron / Linda Cardellini as Sara Whitaker / John Cena as Roger / John Lithgow as Mr. Whitaker / Mel Gibson as Kurt Mayron / Alessandra Ambrosio as Karen Mayron / Owen Vaccaro as Dylan Mayron / Scarlett Estevez as Megan Mayron / Didi Costine as Adrianna
Directed by Sean Anders / Written by Anders and John Morris
Outside of massive paydays for all involved, I'm frankly stumped as to why anyone thought that DADDY'S HOME 2 was a sequel worth exploring.
follow-up film to 2015's sort-of-okay, but sort-of-mediocre Will
Ferrell/Mark Wahlberg revenge comedy featuring a pair of dads - one a
biological father and the other a stepfather - ferociously waging war on
one another for the ultimate affection of their family members.
That film hardly reinvented the genre wheel, but it scored a
handful of well earned laughs while demonstrating how the highly unlikely
pairing of its two main stars made for a mostly appealing dynamic.
Alas, the formula of that entry is dryly and oftentimes painfully
regurgitated in DADDY'S HOME 2, which now features Farrell and Wahlberg
both playing referee between their own respective fathers.
Would-be high hilarity ensues, but audience silence permeated the
screening I attended.
In case you
forget the core plot of the first film, let me keep you up to speed:
DADDY'S HOME featured Ferrell played Brad (in loveable dim-witted and
emasculated nice guy loser form) as a deeply sensitive new stepfather to
the children of Sara (Linda Cardellini) after her alpha male husband Dusty
(Wahlberg) left the picture. Some
of the modest success of this first entry was in showcasing the
increasingly hostile actions that both men partook in to best the other,
especially with how Ferrell's congenial softie became a manned up,
balls-to-the-wall opponent to Wahlberg's leather clad badass.
As DADDY'S HOME 2 opens Brad and Dusty are essentially BFFs and
have both acclimated themselves to their respective patriarch roles in
their family. At one time
they were bitter, winner-take-all enemies, but now the duo has become
"co-parents" and mutually share in all of the responsibilities
of raising their kids.
(and wouldn't ya know it?) for the pair, fate steps in with the appearance
of their fathers, both of whom decide to make impromptu visits at - yup -
the exact same time for Christmas. Dusty's
father Kurt (Mel Gibson) is a retired astronaut that has raised his
boy with a mostly iron fist, whereas Brad's papa Jonah (a very well cast
John Lithgow) is like a version of his son taken to the umpteenth degree
(when they meet at the airport Brad and Jonah lock lips in an
exceptionally long and icky kiss, mostly because they're so happy to see
each other after a long absence of...two months). Rather predictably, the hard boozing, aggressive womanizing,
and crusty as hell Kurt can't fathom why the fruit of his loins would ever
pal up alongside the likes of Brad, which forces Dusty into an emotional
tailspin of reliving his anxiety plagued upbringing under his
authoritarian dad. Complicating
matters immensely is how all parties end up journeying together out of
town on an extended Christmas vacation, which leads to even more
hostilities between fathers and grandfathers...and ends up unavoidably
rekindling the rivalry between Brad and Dusty.
2 is not a total abomination of a comedy sequel in the sense that I
did admire a few things, like, as mentioned, the casting as Lithgow as
Ferrell's eternally optimistic and rosy cheeked father that seems to have
had all of the testosterone sucked out of him by life in general. Brad and Jonah, if anything, are a credible father/son pair
in the film, which serves as a unsurprising, but somewhat effective and
amusing foil to the frat boy nature of Dusty and his father. The film also achieves a few scenes of decent amusement, as
is the case with an early sequence that shows Brad's incredulous stupidity
while harnessing a snowblower that culminates with him nearly destroying
everything in his path. The
funniest scene in all of DADDY'S HOME 2 would easily be one late in the
film that involves nearly every member of this strange and conflicted
family participating in a costume clad public nativity scene re-enactment;
it soon becomes clear that this peaceful celebration of Jesus' birth will
erupt into potential fisticuffs for all involved.
One particularly bloodthirsty watcher even screams out at one
point, "Kick his ass, Joseph!"
Moments like that
have a nervy edge, which is something that most of DADDY'S HOME 1 and most
certainly DADDY'S HOME 2 fails to muster.
Considering the underlining material, it all could have been ripe
for black comedy and Christmas family film genre satire, but
writer/director Sean Anders (back from the first film to quarterback
everything again) plays the already pedestrian material so achingly safe
and is far too careful not to offend.
The inherent laziness and sloppiness of DADDY'S HOME 2 is
frustratingly apparent throughout, and with every few scenes in it that
score hearty and well earned guffaws there are roughly a dozen more that
fall resoundingly flat. Some
gags and pratfalls telegraph themselves with awkward obviousness, which
often is reflected in most of the cast monotonously phoning in their
performances. Some vignettes
simply don't work at all, like Kurt's insistence on taking his
granddaughter on a hunting trip to toughing up his family, not to mention
an extended scene at an improv club that leads to Jonah making some sad
revelations while on stage. If
that's not bad enough, DADDY'S HOME 2 even resorts to a cheap incest joke
between two of the stepchildren that's no where near as funny as the
makers believe it is. Somewhere
and somehow, there existed a meeting of creative minds that believed that
a Christmas movie needed incest humor injected into it.
Let's talk about
Gibson for a minute. His
casting is like a single large in-joke that's sheepishly carried forward
in the film on inept autopilot. Firstly,
it's never once believable that this gruff, potty mouthed, and hooker-joke
telling cretin was ever, ever an astronaut.
Secondly, Gibson is distractingly unfunny throughout the film, who
plays moments so broadly and for maximum shock value that his scatological
zingers never really achieve any level of comedic lift-off.
Then there's the fact that this guy is simply a creepy old bully
that treats his own children like garbage and likes to manhandle random
women he meets in bars that are literally a third his age.
Considering Gibson's real life problems with the opposite sex - not to mention
his abhorrent behavior that got him into loads of trouble over the last
decade-plus - I can see how his inclusion here sounded good on paper and
in movie story pitch meetings. Regrettably,
Gibson's character and his presence overall makes DADDY'S HOME 2 a dour
and deeply cynical experience to endure.
All we are left
with is Ferrell and Wahlberg to pick up the pieces and do what they can to
elevate this criminally forced and stilted material, but for as much odd
couple chemistry as they rekindle here it's abundantly clear that even
they seem to be slothfully going though the motions as much as their
co-stars. Both DADDY'S HOME
films also do a horrendous disservice to their female characters,
literally giving them virtually nothing to do; Cardellini is a wonderful
actress once again saddled with the submissive and obligatory wife role.
If anything, the entire screenplay for this film struggles with
giving anyone anything of substance to do, which all but reinforces how
both sequel and comedy desperation permeates DADDY'S HOME 2.
By the time the narrative culminates inside a movie theater (how
meta!) during Christmas Day it concludes in one of the most ridiculously
manufactured and contrived movie endings of recent memory.
I found it truly hard to care about anyone that occupied DADDY'S
HOME 2, a creatively lethargic sequel that's also trying to be a feel-good
Christmas comedy, leaving it a double dipping offender and one that's not
worthy of your consumption.