By Jack Dignan
I could literally copy and paste my Bad Moms 2 review, change the title and publish it here as my Daddy’s Home 2 review if I wanted to, and the review(s) would accurately summarise how I felt about both of those movies. I did joke in that review that both films looked to be gender-swapped replicas of one another, but little did I realise that they would retain identical negatives and positives, so much so that they’re going to be receiving the exact same rating. This isn’t another White House Down/Olympus Has Fallen situation. These films came out within a week of each other, and they’re both indistinguishable.
The first Daddy’s Home movie was far from a critical success. Personally, the film didn’t work for me. Its premise had potential, but the execution and uneven tonal balance threw all enjoyment out the window. Still, money speaks, and the $242 million box office intake made Paramount Executives very happy. Nearly two years later and we have Daddy’s Home 2, or Daddy’s Home Two as it’s listed on IMDb and credited as during the film’s opening title cards. But whatever. That isn’t important. Or maybe it is. Its awkward title card did throw me off a bit before the film even begun, so there’s that.
What was once dad vs. step dad has progressed into dad teaming up with step dad. Brad (Will Ferrell) and Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) have put their past differences aside and learnt to appreciate one another, working together to co-parent with Brad’s wife Sara (Linda Cardellini). One might even describe them as… gasp… friends. But it’s the Christmas season, and being a parent at Christmas is stressful, especially when the grandparents come to visit. Brad’s dad Don (John Lithgow) brings joy and laughs for the holiday season, but Dusty’s dad Kurt (Mel Gibson) begins to create a wedge between the families, and soon, tension arises. It’s now dad vs. granddad, or dads and granddad vs. second granddad. I don’t really know.
Much like the first film, Daddy’s Home 2, on paper (or electronic paper in this case) sounds like a comedy with potential. Will Ferrell and John Lithgow as an eccentric, overly excited father-son duo should be hilarious, and granted, their comedic chemistry is easily the best part of this movie, but everything else brings their admittedly terrific performances down. Mark Wahlberg and Mel Gibson are the film’s weak links. Wahlberg has charisma, and there are some chuckles here and there, but every scene Gibson is in falls flat on every level. There’s nothing funny about a misogynistic, ego-driven, racist pig telling little girls they belong in the kitchen, but that’s where most of his humour derives from.
He’s written in a way that doesn’t make him a hilarious asshole, but instead, just an asshole. His character arc with Wahlberg feels like a tacked on afterthought that’s both predictable and rushed. At least with Ferrell and Lithgow, while it moves at a numbingly predictable pace, their character arc works, even if it’s fairly shallow. But this entire film is shallow. It’s lifeless entertainment with a few good cameos and fleeting appearances, but nothing substantial enough that it makes the whole thing worth working. One final cameo was very unexpected, but it doesn’t work when you have to explain who it is to the very confused audience.
Daddy’s Home 2 also retains its uneven tonal balance and misguided target audience that the first film struggled to succeed with. It’s not aimed at anybody. It just exists. The humour is too juvenile for teens or adults to connect with, but far too mature for kids to find funny, yet it’s advertised as a heartwarming Christmas comedy for the whole family. I will admit to laughing a few times, but most of the laughs come from the shock of “did they really just do that in a family film?” Act one is funny. Act two and most of act three isn’t. Then, we reach the finale, and it’s easily the best part of the film. I was in hysterics, even if it was occasionally for all the wrong reasons.
I’m not sure who to recommend this film to. While it didn’t click with me, every film clicks with at least somebody. The problem with Daddy’s Home 2 is that there’s no one type of audience who are made to enjoy this film. It’s got a bit of everything, and not in a good way. I didn’t hate watching Daddy’s Home 2, so in that regard I guess this makes it better than the first, but it looses so much of what made that first film interesting. But at the end of the day, give it a week and I’m not even going to have remembered ever seeing this movie.
2 1/2 Stars
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