Here’s a little game to try. Think back over the past decades (so, since 2007). Name five Christmas movies. Now, are any of them good? If that seems difficult, let’s see if this makes it any easier: four Christmas films came out in 2016. Were any of those memorable, or even very good? The point is you’d be better off renting any of the films you thought of, than seeing Daddy’s Home 2.
Most of the plot beats would be the same. Jokes would hew close together. It would certainly be cheaper. Best of all, you wouldn’t feel guilty if you lost interest part of the way through and talked over the climax. True, there will be a few people who think the film is a laugh riot. More power too them. Yet not everyone is capable of ignoring a dull thudding sensation against their skull for 100 grueling minutes.
Meeting up a few years after the previous film, Brad (Will Ferrell) and Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) seem to be existing semi-harmoniously as “co-daddies”. Each harbors a little bit of resentment towards the other, but that’s mostly due to bad communication. Wanting to place sole focus on the kids for one holiday, they agree on doing Christmas together, cutting out the traditional “back & forth”. They reach the decision after their daughter, Megan (a precociously game Scarlett Estevez) roasts them at a school recital.Complicating issues is the arrival of both men’s fathers. While Brad’s dad, Don (John Lithgow, proving better than the material provided) is the pinnacle of “happy & chatty”, he arrives suspiciously without his wife. Dusty’s paternal genes, on the other hand, naturally come from the opposite end of the spectrum, in the from of former astronaut, Kurt (Mel Gibson).
There’s an initial strain between the two, expressed through grimaces, after not seeing each other in five years. While Don & Brad, have gone mere weeks since their last visit. Feeling that his son has gone “soft”, Kurt senses there’s one natural solution: renting a palatial log cabin for the shared Chirstmas. Oh, and pitting the two step-fathers against one another.
Someone on the production team was probably trying to warn the general public when they came up with the on-the-nose tagline “More Daddies. More Problems”. It’s not just that Daddy’s Home 2 is a painful experience, but more so everything that transpires is wholly predictable. Not to mention toothless.
For as much as characters mug and growl, there’s no sense of any stakes. Eventually everyone will set aside their differences, hug and make jolly. Maybe in a movie theater. During a snow storm. That caused a power outage. Which causes a sing-along, after trite revelations are made and a the film’s embodiment of mean old-school machismo is held in somewhat high esteem. Families love that. Almost as much as they apparently love people falling down or spilling hot liquids on others.Maybe that’s the best segue to talk about one of the biggest problems with the film: Mel Gibson. Kurt’s sage advice is sometimes heartfelt, but he himself comes across as downright toxic. The film treats him like a lovable scamp, rather than lambasting him for his actions.
With a title like Daddy’s Home, you might guess the adult female characters are pushed to the side. You’d be right. Sara (Linda Cardellini) gets more to do than in the original film, by virtue of having more lines. A moment to speak up against the pervading macho attitude ends with her almost instantly regretting it . She has a girls afternoon with Dusty’s new wife Karen (Alessandra Ambrosio), in which it’s revealed Karen is a chronic shoplifter. A strange revelation never mentioned later. As with everything else on display, it’s set up without any payoff. Anton Chekhov (and his gun) would be furious.Maybe things would work out for the better if it simply stayed with one genre. Daddy’s Home 2 so wants to go the extra mile it shoots itself in the foot in the process. Jokes simply don’t land. The term “broad” is stretched past the point of recognition. Just as it seems the film may on the verge of becoming self-aware, it doubles down on the stupidity, in the hopes that some poor soul will chuckle out of sympathy. Which is to be expected from a family film that finds drunk children, sexual conquests, divorce and wanton destruction hilarious.
If there’s something nice to be said about Daddy’s Home 2, then it would be that it’s still early November. There’s a month and a half left to show your family any number of Christmas films. Most of them will be infinitely better. You can do so with the hope that this film is soon forgotten. Just like any number that have come out in recent history. In the end, that’s probably the best. For all parties involved.