As weird as it is having this sequel released on the heels of Bad Moms Christmas, where both films feature their lead characters during the holiday season, the fact that they both deal with the added pressure of their own parents visiting is almost too coincidental to be believed. But fear not: both films are almost equally crappy as comedies or vehicles for characters we once enjoyed returning to be grating in both new and familiar ways. Daddy’s Home 2 is perhaps a little funnier because it doesn’t feel like it’s trying as hard to be funny (I never thought that approach would be a blessing).
Now the best of friends, Dusty Mayron (Mark Wahlberg) and Brad Whitaker (Will Ferrell) have dived head first into the co-parenting deep end. It’s clear that the last couple of Christmases have been rough on the kids because they spend part of the day with Brad and wife Sara (Linda Cardellini) and then get shuttled to Dusty and Karen’s (Alessandra Ambrosio). So the adults decide to have a “together Christmas,” with everyone under the same roof for once.
Just as those plans are coming together, Dusty’s estranged father Kurt (Mel Gibson, in full rough-and-tumble, silver fox mode) reaches out for the first time in years to invite himself to Christmas, where he will share the grandparent spotlight with Brad’s dad (John Lithgow, who seems to enjoy kissing his son on the lips way too often) as well.
It’s clear from the beginning that Kurt thinks the co-parenting idea is a joke. He finds any number of passive-aggressive (and sometime just plain aggressive) ways to drive a wedge between the two men so that Dusty’s more manly ways will take hold in the kids’ minds rather than Brad’s sappy and sentimental demeanor. His first move is to rent a home in the woods where everyone can celebrate the holiday together without giving the advantage to any one family about who gets to host the first “together” event.
Directed by Sean Anders (who helmed the first Daddy’s Home as well as That’s My Boy and Horrible Bosses 2), Daddy’s Home 2 does not believe in subtlety or playing its comedy as anything but big and broad. While a lighter touch might have actually made great strides in making these characters appear to act like functioning human beings, instead the movie repeatedly goes for the obvious, cheap laugh, rarely resulting in actual laughter. Gibson and Lithgow have their moments, but even they are reduced to simply being a bully or a dweeb, respectively.
Toss into the mix the return of Karen’s ex-husband Roger (John Cena) and an eyeroll-worthy sequence involving all family members trapped in a movie theater on Christmas Day, and you’ve got yourself an utterly predictable pile of reindeer shit. Even a potentially funny running gag about the Band Aid song “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” flops around on the screen thanks to a weak payoff in the final minutes.
It’s not that there’s nothing funny in Daddy’s Home 2, but considering the number of funny people on screen and gifted actors who maybe aren’t known for comedy but can still land a punchline or two, you’d expect this movie to be a lot more joyous an experience than it is. We’re in the season where you’re about to get hit with awards-worthy titles every week. Rest assured, this is not one of them.