ODD FATHERS, PART II

Dads and their dads act noth­ing like real hu­man be­ings

Chicago Sun-Times - - MOVIES - BY RICHARD ROEPER Movie Colum­nist Email: rroeper@sun­times.com Twit­ter: @ richardroeper

Af­ter en­dur­ing last week’s lousy, lazy “A Bad Mom’s Christ­mas,” I would have bet it would be many a year be­fore we’d see an­other hol­i­day com­edy more sour and cyn­i­cal and pro­foundly un­funny. I sit cor­rected. The first “Daddy’s Home” was filmed in New Or­leans, and the bril­liantly ti­tled se­quel “Daddy’s Home 2” was filmed in Mas­sachusetts — but these one- di­men­sional and in some cases se­ri­ously dis­turbed char­ac­ters might as well be dwelling on As­gard for all their con­nec­tion to any­thing re­sem­bling the world in which we live.

Yes. I know this is a slap­stick farce, with as­pi­ra­tions to fol­low in the broad com­edy tra­di­tion of a “Na­tional Lam­poon’s Christ­mas Va­ca­tion” or even the first “Home Alone.”

Key dif­fer­ence: Even when Clark Gris­wold cre­ates havoc with his wildly over- the- top Christ­mas lights or Kevin McCal­lis­ter comes up with Rube Gold­berg con­trap­tions to foil the Wet Ban­dits, we can re­late to the hap­less fam­ily man Clark or the for­got­ten, left- alone kid Kevin.

With the pos­si­ble ex­cep­tion of one fe­male char­ac­ter who is rel­e­gated to the deep back­ground as the mid­dle- aged and 60- some­thing Boys- to- Men hog the spot­light with their in­creas­ingly fee­ble and child­ish an­tics, no­body in “Daddy’s Home 2” talks or be­haves in a way most of us can em­pathize with ( or find en­ter­tain­ing) on any level.

“Daddy’s Home 2” and “Bad Moms Christ­mas” ac­tu­ally travel re­mark­ably ( and de­press­ingly) sim­i­lar plot paths.

In “Bad Moms Christ­mas,” the moth­ers of the Bad Moms ar­rive just in time for the hol­i­days, tot­ing all sorts of fam­ily bag­gage and wreak­ing havoc on the lives of their daugh­ters’ fam­i­lies. One dom­i­nant grand­par­ent in­sists on host­ing a lav­ish, over- the- top Christ­mas cel­e­bra­tion. Mean­while, the grand­chil­dren get caught up in the Af­fec­tion Wars.

Oh, and be­fore it’s all over, the seeds are planted for a pos­si­ble three- quel set in Las Ve­gas.

In “Daddy’s Home 2,” the fathers of the dad­dies ar­rive just in time for the hol­i­days, tot­ing all sorts of fam­ily bag­gage and wreak­ing havoc on the lives of their sons’ fam­i­lies. One dom­i­nant grand­par­ent in­sists on host­ing a lav­ish, over- the- top Christ­mas cel­e­bra­tion. Mean­while, the grand­chil­dren get caught up in the Af­fec­tion Wars.

Oh, and be­fore it’s all over, the seeds are planted for a pos­si­ble three- quel set in Las Ve­gas.

Keep the eggnog com­ing; I’m deal­ing with a se­ri­ous case of Déjà View.

Will Fer­rell re­turns as the squishy, touchy- feely Brad, and Mark Wahlberg is back as the ma­cho, out­wardly gruff Dusty. Brad is mar­ried to Sara ( Linda Cardellini, play­ing the clos­est thing to a nor­mal hu­man be­ing in this movie), Dusty’s ex- wife. For­mer ri­vals Brad and Dusty are now hap­pily ex­ist­ing as co- par­ents and best bud­dies.

Dusty is mar­ried to the spec­tac­u­larly beau­ti­ful and al­ways provoca­tively dressed Karen ( Alessan­dra Am­bro­sio), who we’re told is a very suc­cess­ful nov­el­ist. Even when Karen is in stiletto heels and ne­glects to wear a bra, she al­ways has pen and pad in hand, so we know she’s very se­ri­ous about the whole nov­el­ist thing.

Mel Gib­son hams it up ( and scores a few laughs) as Kurt, Dusty’s Marl­boro Man of a dad — a crude, lewd for­mer space shut­tle pi­lot who shows up un­in­vited af­ter be­ing MIA for most of Dusty’s adult life ( not to men­tion his child­hood).

John Lith­gow is Brad’s fa­ther, who’s even more af­fec­tion­ate and sweet and child­like than Brad. When fa­ther and son see each other af­ter mere weeks apart, they kiss on the lips for an un­com­fort­ably long pe­riod of time.

See what’s hap­pen­ing here? The grand­pas are ex­ag­ger­ated ver­sions of their grown sons!

Brad and Dusty and their ex­tended fam­i­lies wind up spend­ing the hol­i­days in an enor­mous and lux­u­ri­ous moun­tain re­treat, where all sorts of wacky hi­jinks en­sue and deep se­crets are re­vealed. Oh boy.

Much of the “hu­mor” in “Daddy’s Home 2” is of ques­tion­able taste at best.

Karen’s ado­les­cent daugh­ter Adri­anna ( Didi Cos­tine) and Sara’s daugh­ter Me­gan ( Scar­lett Estevez), who is about 7 or 8, raid the spiked punch bowl, get drunk and stum­ble about gig­gling while the fam­ily recre­ates the Na­tiv­ity Scene.

Kurt puts a gun in lit­tle Me­gan’s hands and takes her out to shoot tur­keys. She wings Kurt and kills two birds and then brags about it to the nurses in the hos­pi­tal where Kurt is laid up. Re­ally? Re­ally?

There’s also an am­a­teur­ishly staged and down­right bizarre mu­si­cal num­ber in which the par­ents and the grand­par­ents and the kids joy­ously sing “Do They Know It’s Christ­mas?,” the 1984 clas­sic writ­ten by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure and per­formed by an all- star col­lec­tion of artists. This was a col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort to raise aware­ness and gen­er­ate funds to com­bat famine in Ethiopia.

It’s noth­ing short of jar­ring to see ev­ery­one grin­ning madly and lock­ing arms while char­ac­ters take turns singing lyrics such as, “There’s a world out­side your win­dow, and it’s a world of dread and fear,” and “… the Christ­mas bells that ring there are the clang­ing chimes of doom …”

All right. This time I’m pos­i­tive we’re not go­ing to see a hol­i­day com­edy this sour and cyn­i­cal and pro­foundly un­funny for a very long time.

At least that’s my Christ­mas wish.

Kurt ( Mel Gib­son, from left) sur­prises Dusty ( Mark Wahlberg) just as Brad ( Will Fer­rell) is host­ing his dad ( John Lith­gow).

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