Daddy’s Home 2, 2017.
Directed by Sean Anders.
Starring Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Mel Gibson, John Lithgow, John Cena, Linda Cardellini, Alessandra Ambrosio, Owen Vaccaro, Scarlett Estevez, Didi Costine, and Oscar Wahlberg
Brad and Dusty must deal with their intrusive fathers during the holidays.
The greatest strength of the Daddy’s Home series continues to be on-the-nose casting. Released in 2015, the first dysfunctional family comedy made use of the excellent comedic Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg comedic pairing (a duo that were absolutely electric in The Other Guys), so it’s only fitting that director and co-writer Sean Anders (returning for the sequel and also known for Horrible Bosses) have found grandfather components containing that same hysterical chemistry by way of drastically opposing personalities.
Starting with Mel Gibson as Kurt, father to Mark Wahlberg’s Dusty, it’s important to note that he isn’t exactly a carbon copy. Sure, like Dusty, Kurt also has bravado and macho instincts, but he’s also a sardonic wisecracker, chauvinistic, and old-fashioned (bafflingly insisting on buying children that can’t be older than 12 real shotguns for Christmas), overall making for a different breed of the ‘cool dad’ so to speak. Then there’s John Lithgow who unfortunately does not receive the same treatment as Brad’s (Will Ferrell) father; they’re exactly alike from their mild-mannered qualities to their knack for ending up in absurd situations usually resulting in physical pain/humor. He’s great in the role but it’s disappointing that the biggest joke the writers could come up with is overly affectionate kissing to express their tight relationship; Brad’s father doesn’t even have a name. Still, there’s a part of me that says John Lithgow should play Will Ferrell’s father in every film going forward.
The additions of more daddies certainly adds for more comedy (Daddy’s Home 2, for as lazily titled as it is, is one of the rare sequels that benefits from doubling down on ingredients from the previous installment), but a rewatch of the first, while not a necessity, might be in order as keeping track of the men and their life partners along with who is whose child can be messy. It also feels as if John Cena’s Roger (the real father of Mark Wahlberg’s new wife’s child) was meant to have a larger role in the movie considering his late introduction and limited screen time despite winding up being a focal point of the ending. This is all especially true considering that the resolution of the first film set him up as the villain per se for this one.
Regardless, when everyone is placed in the same environment together there are definitely some genuine laughs and occasionally lightly touching moments. What’s frustrating is that the direction from Sean Anders is unable to restrain from periodically dipping into vulgar and/or shock territory, which is tonally jarring in an otherwise family-friendly Christmas comedy. To be fair, the first movie also had this issue. Not to mention, some of the segments make no earthly sense even in the realm of slapstick comedy; why in the world would anyone willingly give a Will Ferrell character a chainsaw? There’s also a hunting sequence that feels far too cartoonish and out of place, along with some cringe-worthy homophobic material peppered throughout the movie.
Daddy’s Home 2 works when it’s sticking to appealing to a broad audience. It’s much more entertaining when crassness is abandoned to watch Dusty consistently be aware that his father is attempting to drive a wedge between the two even though it’s obvious at some point he will be successful, holiday centered gags, or even Linda Cardellini’s Sara continue to be the glue holding the family together while she deals with a motherly rivalry of her own (it would be nice if she actually had more to her subplot). In general, the story does have its predictable beats and goes through the motions, but it is fairly easy to overlook thanks to fun vibes and amusing comedic delivery of various lines.
Ultimately, there’s also a heart and charm to these movies that win out over their more unsavory aspects. As mentioned, the cast is also a great one, .playing up everyone’s funniest traits. Daddy’s Home 2‘s ending definitely manages to express all of these positives, closing on a note that surprisingly isn’t a celebratory perfect Christmas Day after a week of total chaos, but rather something in between promoting the ideals of family and doing what’s best for the children. A third movie is teased, but honestly, I would prefer the filmmakers going the route that gives John Cena a much larger part instead of the direction presented. Either way, more of Ferrell and Wahlberg on the same screen can never be a bad thing.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com