Daddy's Home 2

Daddys-Home-2-rev Daddy’s Home 2  (2017)    Paramount/Comedy    RT: 100 minutes    Rated PG-13 (suggestive material, some language)    Director: Sean Anders    Screenplay: Sean Anders and John Morris    Music: Michael Andrews    Cinematography: Julio Macat    Release date: November 10, 2017 (US)    Cast: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Mel Gibson, John Lithgow, Linda Cardellini, John Cena, Scarlett Estevez, Owen Vaccaro, Alessandra Ambrosio, Didi Costine.

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 I really wasn’t looking forward to Daddy’s Home 2. To be honest, I was dreading it. I didn’t like the original 2015 movie, a stepdad vs. biological dad comedy starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg. I didn’t laugh once at that stupid movie. I’m not a particular fan of Will Ferrell or comedies that put sweet but clueless protagonists in one embarrassing scenario after another. Going by the trailer, I expected more of the same from Daddy’s Home 2 which ups the ante by bringing Ferrell and Wahlberg’s dads into the fold. I can’t believe I’m about say/admit this but I liked it. It’s mostly good-natured and funnier than its predecessor. I laughed quite a few times. That I laughed at all makes the second movie a vast improvement over the first.

dadys home 2 Since we last saw them, Brad (Ferrell) and Dusty (Wahlberg) have settled into the co-dad thing very well. They’ve even become best friends. Dusty’s two children, Dylan (Vaccaro) and Megan (Estevez), divide their time between bio-dad and stepdad. All seems right with the world until Megan announces at her school Christmas pageant that she doesn’t like this arrangement at all. Brad and Dusty decide that this year they’ll have “a together Christmas” with the whole family including their own fathers. Hmmm. A comedy sequel, Christmas, additional star power and a trunk-load of unresolved parent-child issues. Didn’t we witness a similar scenario in last week’s A Bad Moms Christmas?

 Taking a cue from Bad Moms and Meet the Parents, the makers of Daddy’s Home 2 decide to kick the sequel up a notch by calling in back-up from veteran actors. Enter Mel Gibson (Lethal Weapon) and John Lithgow (3rd Rock from the Sun) as the dads’ dads. Kurt (Gibson), father of Dusty, is one of those macho alpha-male types who chases women half his age and tells wildly inappropriate jokes about dead hookers to his grandchildren. He’s been absent for most of Dusty’s life and is back on the scene just in time to scoff at the idea of him and Brad co-parenting. Don (Lithgow), father of Brad, is a touchy-feely type who loves to talk and talk and talk. The kids love him and his PG-rated “Pop Pop jokes” about ducks’ “butt quacks”.

 Right off the bat, Kurt sets about driving a wedge between Dusty and Brad. He thinks Brad is a joke and does everything he can to make him look like a fool (not that Brad needs a lot of help in that area). He makes arrangements for the entire clan to spend Christmas at a ski chalet in the mountains. Besides the ones I already mentioned, there’s also Sara (Cardellini, Legally Blonde), Brad’s wife and Dusty’s ex, the sole voice of reason and sanity in this movie; Dusty’s hot new wife, novelist Karen (model Ambrosio) and his  snooty stepdaughter Adrianna (Costine) whose own bio-dad Roger (Cena, Trainwreck) shows up later. Friction flows as abundantly as the eggnog as Kurt continues to stir things up between his son and Brad by forcing the resentments they still harbor to the surface.

 Not all of Daddy’s Home 2 works. Some of the jokes miss by a mile. The sight of Ferrell and Lithgow kissing each other on the lips is just uncomfortable. The jokes that do hit are funny. I laughed a lot, more than I probably should have. It wasn’t boisterous laughter or polite but hollow laughter, it falls somewhere in between. Like doofus forerunner Clark Griswold, Brad creates havoc pretty much anywhere he goes. There are incidents involving Christmas lights and cell phone towers mistaken for Christmas trees. I laughed the hardest at scenes that will have many saying “that’s just wrong” like when Kurt takes Megan wild turkey hunting and she accidentally shoots him in the shoulder before blowing away two birds, all of which she brags about to the nurses at the hospital later. Little kids get drunk on eggnog and Nativity reenactments turn into snowball fights. Now I’m not saying that Daddy’s Home 2 is great cinema or even great comedy; however, I can see it becoming a future holiday comedy classic. I didn’t like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation when it first came out but now I watch it every year. I predict the same fate for Daddy’s Home 2.

 I know that Daddy’s Home 2 technically belongs to Ferrell and Wahlberg (they do have great chemistry) but it’s Gibson who steals the show. I realize he’s still on many people’s s--t lists for his drunken anti-Semitic comments and sexist ideals but the man is straight-up funny here. For his character, he plays on his negative public image (minus the racist stuff) to great comic effect. Of course, it’s revealed that Kurt has a semi-soft side when he offers words of encouragement to a frustrated Dylan during a family bowling outing. Cardellini is thankfully given a little more to do this time around with her rivalry with snooty Karen who takes down notes every time Sara fails as a parent. Lithgow is also a hoot as Brad’s nice but clueless dad (the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, does it?). The only character that got my nerves was Adrianna who I’m pretty sure is surgically attached to her cell phone. When she does look up, it’s usually to talk back/defy an adult or remind Dusty that he’s not her father. This is one kid who deserves a stocking filled with coal (or another unpleasant substance).

Ultimately and predictably, Daddy’s Home 2 turns into one of those heartwarming comedies in which all the central characters are brought together in one place by circumstances beyond their control. In this case, they all end up singing “Feed the World”, the 1984 Christmas song featuring nearly 40 British recording artists. It’s actually a nice scene. It’s totally corny but damned if it doesn’t work.

 Kids will want to see Daddy’s Home 2 and I say why not. Despite its PG-13 rating, there’s nothing too offensive in it. It actually has a nice message about family. Sure, it’s silly and stupid but in a time when the world is such a serious place, it’s nice to be able to laugh. That I liked it is a Christmas miracle in and of itself.

 On a final note, both Bad Moms Christmas and Daddy’s Home 2 end with the promise of a sequel featuring the parents’ parents heading off to spend New Year’s in Las Vegas. Might I suggest a crossover movie? 

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