Daddy’s Home 2 and all the images you see in this review are owned by Paramount Pictures
Directed by Sean Anders
I don’t know about the rest of you, but the only thing I was wondering when I first heard about this movie was why they didn’t cast John Lithgow as the TOUGH dad. Seriously, the dude’s got Cliffhanger, Ricochet, and even Dexter under his belt to show us all how despicably evil he can when the role calls for it, and it’d certainly be much better casting for Marky Mark’s mean deadbeat dad than the guy they got; though I’m pretty sure ANYONE in Hollywood who’s not currently being ostracized for inexcusable behavior would have been a much more palatable choice than Raging Mel. I don’t know about this one. I certainly didn’t expect much out of the first film and it managed to be a bit better than I was expecting, but what are the chances that we’ll get a half-way decent sequel out of that; especially as it’s a Holiday film which are almost always a bad idea for sequels. Wait, didn’t I just say that like a week ago about A Bad Mom’s Christmas? Now that I think about it… two unexpectedly solid comedies about parenting that made a HUGE amount of money at the box office get Holiday sequels about the parents of the characters in the first film… that are released within a week of each other. Huh. Well that’s… coincidental. Anyway, does THIS Holiday sequel manage to AT LEAST be as good as the OTHER Holiday sequel we just got, or am I in for one HELL of a crappy movie going experience? Well… Let’s find out…
The movie begins about a year after the events of the first film where Brad and Dusty (Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg) have put aside their differences and are the best co-dads of all time; sharing responsibilities with the kids and working together as a cohesive family unit! Well… ALMOST perfect. Dusty’s biological daughter Megan (Scarlett Estevez) reveals during the school’s Christmas Recital that she’s not happy about having the holidays split between two households, so the two families band together and decide to have just one Christmas together which seems like a great idea… until Dusty gets a call from his dad Kurt (Mel Gibson) who’s decided to come down for the holidays. This is bad because Dusty’s dad is just like he was in the first film and will surely be nagging on him the entire time for not being MANLY enough whatever the hell toxic dinosaurs like him are always on about. In addition to that, we’ve got Brad’s dad Don (John Lithgow) coming to town who is ACTUALLY a really nice grandpa but seems to be hiding something from Brad, an increasingly tense standoff between Brad’s wife Sara and Dusty’s wife Karen (Linda Cardellini and Alessandra Ambrosio) about how to raise the kids they share (Dusty’s biological kids and Karen’s daughter from another marriage), and to top it all off, Dusty’s biological son Dylan (Owen Vaccaro) is about at the age where he needs to have THE TALK which throws EVERYTHING into chaos as the four dads on hand have their own idea of how it should go and who should give it. Will any of these plot threads come together into something resembling a cohesive whole? Is there a single point in this movie where it’s NOT uncomfortable watching Mel Gibson on screen? Can someone explain to me what I POSSIBLY could have done to deserve this!?
I expected this movie to be BAD, what we’ve got here is something else ENTIRELY. Don’t get me wrong! It’s still BAD, but its’ also a confusing mess that WANTS to have big ideas and some depth to its characters, but in doing so ends up being an uncomfortable and morally questionable disaster. Everything that made the first movie marginally passible is pretty much absent in here and just about everything they’ve added to make up for it is categorically worse in ways that I didn’t think a film like this would have the ambition to fail so spectacularly at which is almost a marvel in and of itself, and all you’ll be left with as you leave the theater is a sense of deep sadness as well as a mild case of nausea if you aren’t tonally oblivious. What I’m saying is that Daddy’s Home 2 is basically the Batman v Superman of mediocre Holiday comedies, and that is NOT a statement I was expecting to write today!
Where to even begin with this monstrosity that somehow found its way into theaters? Well let’s start with the basic nuts and bolts problems before we get into the stuff that’s outright offensive; though I’m sure anyone with the slightest appreciation for filmmaking will find something to be outraged over in this part of the film’s autopsy. The movie basically has no plot; in that there’s a SETTING and a few specific circumstances, but things like character arcs and story progression are left to the wayside or outright sacrificed in order to jump to the next stupid set piece. Remember how levelheaded Linda Cardellini was in the first film and how great of a parent she was to her kids even when the men of the house were acting like spoiled brats? Well forget about all that because they wanted to have a comedy skit where a little girl is carrying around a shotgun which dear old mom has to APPROVE OF in order for us to get to that scene! How about all that mutual respect built up between Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell that we spent an entire movie building towards? Well it was funny in the first film when they were fighting, so let’s throw in a bunch of contrived misunderstandings in order to get them mad at each other! YOU KNOW! EVERYONE’S FAVORITE TROPE IN THESE KINDS OF MOVIES!! It just goes on and ON with this shit and you’re never given a reason to care about anyone because they’re no longer characters in a story. It would have at least been TOLERABLE if the jokes had been funny, and while I do admit that humor is very subjective, the majority in this film falls completely flat; either because they’re just not particularly well written or they’re blatant repeats of jokes from the last film. It’s an absolute chore to sit through this mess, and that’s BEFORE we get to the big sexist, racist, Anti-Semitic (and I’m sure a few other things), elephant in the room!
Look, whether or not you believe Mel Gibson “deserves a second chance” or that we should “separate the art from the artist”, it’s hard to argue that he’s not doing himself ANY favors by being in THIS movie playing THIS role. Speaking STRICTLY in terms of the movie itself, the character is just annoying as he’s constantly talking shit to everyone around him and his few moments of genuine kindness are outweighed by just how hard he’s trying to manipulate his son into being a retrograde ass hat like himself. Since the movie care so little about its own plot, there’s never really any “redemption arc” for the guy either which could potentially have given his earlier douchebaggery a sense of purpose or thematic resonance (you know; like they did with Marky Mark in the first film), but I guess NOT glorifying his actions was too much of a hassle for whatever hack was writing this. And on top of that… yeah, there’s no denying that this character being played by Mel “Smile And Blow Me” Gibson makes things THAT much more uncomfortable. The movie trades too much on Mel’s “reputation” as a super sexy and uber macho god among men; but he hasn’t been THAT Mel Gibson (at least as far as the general public was aware) for about a decade now; so having the whole movie as well as Mel’s performance lean into a public perception that was rightfully stripped away from him feels like a really shitty attempt at papering over his past behavior which in doing so erases (or at least mitigates) the trauma he’s inflicted on his victims. Not helping things is that the movie’s resistance to his form of toxic masculinity is paper thin at best, and they even go that tactless extra mile to give him a disposable love interest as he picks up a woman at a bar who never gets a name and has MAYBE one line. The scene is meant to show him as somewhat callous to his son (the pick-up is happening during a scene where they were bonding), but it’s ALSO something else that the film uses to assure us how COOL he is, which… no. This dude is not cool. He’s a monstrous creep throughout the movie who never really gets his comeuppance or learns much of a lesson; much like the REAL Mel who’s still making movies and starring in stuff like this. Hoo-ray…
All this venomous negativity I’ve been spewing at the film does beg the question though, is there ANYTHING I liked in this? Sigh… look, I just love John Lithgow, alright? The dude is such a great actor that he manages to carry this film whenever he’s on screen which is THANKFULLY more than what the trailers are letting on; though he’s still stuck with such a crappy script that barely has much use for him (or anyone else) so there are moments where his shtick falls flat and he’s left flailing for a decent bit of direction just like everyone else. Still, the guy knows how to make the most of what he has no matter how little it is, and he manages to have a solid emotional moment in this film in circumstances that would have utterly ruined the emotional weight of the scene had it been in a lesser actors hands. Still, even if John Lithgow proves once again that he’s a phenomenal comedian and even if I can point to a few jokes that got a chuckle out of me (I thought the thermostat joke was delightfully absurd if a bit worn by this point), there’s simply not enough here to save such a poorly made and horrendously paced movie. John Lithgow gets credit for trying, but not even Atlas could have carried this freaking burden by himself. When your in movie has children handling guns poorly for “comedic effect”, an unironic use of the word “snowflake” and an INCEST JOKE thrown in right as the fucking movie’s about to end, what the heck can you even do with that? I mean other than say NO to the fucking thing which Lithgow REALLY should have done. I know the last one made over TWO HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS, but you were on 3rd Rock from the Sun, damn it!
If it wasn’t clear already, this is CLEARLY a worse film than A Bad Moms Christmas which I tentatively recommended if you were a fan of the first one. This film gets no such leeway as it is… well probably the movie we SHOULD have gotten the first time around, but that’s always how it goes, isn’t it? Whenever we get a surprisingly good movie, there’s always like an eighty percent chance that SOMEONE will have the bright idea to make a sequel and it’ll end up missing the point of whatever made the first work. Don’t got see this movie. Don’t even bother when it gets a home release. The only way I would recommend you ever getting your hands on this film is if you find it for a nickel at the flea market and are looking for a new coaster; though even then you can probably find a better one for about the same price at the next table.