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