Released: 22nd November 2017
Directed By: Sean Anders
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Will Ferrell
Reviewed By: Van Connor
Since so much of a hit comedy is ultimately lightning in a bottle, the idea of ever recapturing that inherently stands as a fool’s errand. For a rather distinct example of that, you need look no further back than the recent A Bad Moms Christmas – a parentally-centric seasonal sequel that failed to recapture any of the charm of its predecessor and makes for a strangely laughless affair. Alas, now it’s the dads’ turn, and they’re back with a parentally-centric seasonal sequel of their own that – though still a pretty heavy-hitter on the laugh count – doesn’t come without problems of its own.
At least two Christmasses have come and gone since the events of Daddy’s Home, and the blended Whittaker-Mayron family are all growing tired of having to divvy up the festive celebrations. Enter Brad (the returning Will Ferrell) and Dusty’s (Mark Wahlberg) fathers Don and Kurt (John Lithgow and Mel Gibson, respectively), whose sudden arrival for the holidays sees the clan set off for a remote holiday cabin in pursuit of their first “together Christmas”. Chaos quickly looms however, as the grizzled and hyper-masculine Kurt sets about poking holes in the relationship between his son and his “co-dad”, while Brad finds himself picking up the pieces of an emerging domestic crisis with his own over-sensitive father.
Its interesting to observe the manner in which this above-average sequel quickly jettisons the previous film’s more well-received elements (namely Hannibal Buress and Thomas Haden Church) in favour of adding new and strangely misjudged ones instead. Gibson, primarily, is a startlingly questionable addition to the canon – Kurt a seriously ill-advised character under ordinary circumstance, but made doubly so with the casting of Gibson in what’s being weirdly pitched as a film suitable for children. In a move alarmingly devoid of any kind of topicality, Daddy’s Home 2 is a movie that inspires young boys to ostensibly force themselves upon the object of their affections, then sign it off with an ass-slap and a “thanks sweetheart.” Appalling – yes, but a billion times more appalling when its delivered by the grinning face of the man who coined the term “sugartits”. Perhaps that’s the point though, and, in the Trump-era, why, really, should anyone bother to put up a struggle anymore? Oh yeah, decency.
Lithgow, meanwhile, tries to heap the heart on his rather nauseating role, but Don’s really only as thinly drawn as his rival grandparent, spared only the need to be as crass as humanly possible with each passing line of dialogue. The returning dads fare marginally better, though Wahlberg’s Dusty is severely short-changed by a reshuffled character arc that sees him as now really nothing more or less alpha-male than the previously beta Brad. It’s shoddy writing that strips away the character work that made Daddy’s Home such an unexpected joy in the first place, and it’s particularly evident in a reversal-of-fortune arc that sees Wahlberg rather ineptly attempt to navigate being a stepdad himself.
Outside of Gibson and Lithgow, though, it has to be said that the majority of Daddy’s Home 2’s gags do land with relative – though substance-free – success, even if the bulk of those gags really only amount to repeating those from the first movie with an adjustment of scale. Oh, you liked the shocking motorcycle set piece? Well, this one’s got a snowblower. Lather, rinse, repeat. It’s more successful on just about every front than the Bad Moms’ effort, but it’s still a pretty basic affair, being held together with desperate strain by Ferrell and fighting against itself to hold off on the John Cena cameo that resulted in you getting excited about a potential sequel in the first place. Cena’s return, incidentally, yields only one significant laugh, and its of such flimsy worth that to even mention its content would sap it of nearly all comedic effect.
There’s the offhand establishment of a potential spin-off by the film’s close, a set-up anyone who sat through Bad Moms Christmas [sic] has already seen threatened once this month, and, frankly, holds about as much promise. Yet it’s the set-up for a potential third Daddy’s Home that seems the most daunting. The law of diminishing returns strikes hard here, and it hits hardest in the moments that require Daddy’s Home 2 to be about anything of real substance or worth. Given, then, that this (supposedly) family-friendly film builds itself on the need to build to a denouement of pure unadulterated love, those diminishing returns leave you with little to take home at the end of it all. Save for the memory of John Cena – doing something that becomes less funny the more you think about it. Actually, that’s the perfect description of Daddy’s Home 2 – see it, laugh at it, forget about it.