Twice as many fathers, half as many laughs

Toronto Star - - ENTERTAINMENT - PETER HOW­ELL MOVIE CRITIC

Daddy’s Home 2

(out of 4) Star­ring Will Fer­rell, Mark Wahlberg, Mel Gib­son, John Lith­gow, Linda Cardellini and Alessan­dra Am­bro­sio. Di­rected by Sean An­ders. Opens Fri­day at GTA the­atres. 100 min­utes. PG We haven’t even started to get sick yet of Christ­mas songs this Yule­tide sea­son, and al­ready there’s a dire same­ness to hol­i­day amuse­ment.

I’m think­ing of Daddy’s Home 2, an un­for­tu­nate se­quel that amps up the bro show and the ho-ho-ho from the 2015 orig­i­nal, with two sets of war­ring dads now bat­tling for fam­ily af­fec­tion.

It’s ba­si­cally just a gen­der switch away from last week’s even more dis­mal A Bad Moms Christ­mas, right down to the on­screen count­downs, out­ra­geous prod­uct plugs, rude hu­mour and fake sen­ti­ment. The Daddy’s Home premise had Will Fer­rell as Brad, mil­que­toast step­dad to the two young chil­dren of his new wife, Sara (Linda Cardellini). All is sweet­ness and light un­til the ma­cho bi­o­log­i­cal fa­ther, Mark Wahlberg’s Dusty, roars in on his mo­tor­cy­cle and de­mands more say in the par­ent­ing of his pre­teen kids, Me­gan (Scar­lett Estevez) and Dy­lan (Owen Vac­caro).

The first movie ended well and of­fered a few good laughs. The se­quel, not so much — al­though it re­minds us of the abun­dant chem­istry be­tween Fer­rell and Wahlberg, who also teamed for buddy cop pic The Other Guys.

Brad and Dusty are still dis­sim­i­lar, but they’re now also the best of buds. They’re hap­pily “co-dads” of Me­gan and Dy­lan, and also of Adri­anna (Didi Cos­tine), the daugh­ter of Dusty’s new part­ner, Karen (Alessan­dra Am­bro­sio).

The two dudes share such whole­some chores as bak­ing treats for school and sport events. But now Brad’s dad Don (John Lith­gow) and Dusty’s père Kurt (Mel Gib­son) have ar­rived un­ex­pect­edly for the Christ­mas hol­i­days. All bets are off on fam­ily har­mony and broth­erly bond­ing as the grand­dads weigh in.

Chip­per Don loves to hug; sar­cas­tic Kurt is a thug. Nei­ther ac­tor has to ex­ert him­self much, es­pe­cially Gib­son, who mostly just stands and snick­ers.

With par­ent­ing styles now clash­ing over two gen­er­a­tions, more isn’t mer­rier, just as with A Bad Moms Christ­mas. The com­edy is a one-trick rein­deer.

Sean An­ders, the re­turn­ing di­rec­tor and co-writer (with Brian Burns and John Mor­ris), runs out of gas at the half­way mark. He re­sorts to pad­ding the story with an­tic in­san­ity in­volv­ing ther­mo­stat ar­gu­ments, stolen Christ­mas trees and out-of-con­trol snow blow­ers.

The cal­cu­lated cash grab be­hind the movie gets of­fen­sive when a bald plug for the Show­case Cin­e­mas chain turns into a theatre lobby group sin­ga­long of “Do They Know It’s Christ­mas?” the 1984 Band Aid song for African famine re­lief.

It’s a stir­ring tune that is played here for laughs, with theatre con­fec­tions be­ing tossed to well-fed rev­el­ers.

Do they even know the song is about starv­ing peo­ple?

Ex­pect­ing movies like Daddy’s Home 2 and A Bad Moms Christ­mas to rec­og­nize any­thing but the most plas­tic of emo­tions is ev­i­dently hop­ing for too much.

CLAIRE FOLGER/PARA­MOUNT PIC­TURES

Mel Gib­son, left, Mark Wahlberg, Will Fer­rell and John Lith­gow play fa­ther-son duos in Daddy’s Home 2, di­rected by Sean An­ders.

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