To call Daddy's Home 2 an uncomfortable film is an understatement, Daddy's Home 2 is a monstrosity of a motion picture that can't decide what it's supposed to be and instead becomes a textbook case of cinematic nothingness.
Credit should be given to the distribution at Paramount Pictures for figuring out the one holiday weekend during which two of this year's remaining clunkers, the other being Kenneth Branagh's self-absorbed Murder on the Orient Express remake, would have the box-office dollars to themselves safely tucked away from the Marvel masterpieces, the DC wannabes, and the early awards season's little engines that could.
Daddy's Home 2 brings back the wussified Brad Whitaker (Will Ferrell) and the hyper-stylized machismo of Dusty Mayron (Mark Wahlberg), who spent much of Daddy's Home hating one another until it was time for the ending and they didn't anymore. They settled into a kinda sorta peaceful existence as co-dads with Dusty settling in with Brad's ex-wife, Sara (Linda Cardellini) and the kiddoes.
Daddy's Home 2 will, of course, disrupt that peaceful existence with the obligatory holiday adventures featuring the introduction of the dads of the co-dads, Brad's even more wussified dad Don (John Lithgow) and Dusty's even more testosterone-fueled dad Kurt (Mel Gibson).
Can you see where this is going?
Of course you can.
While director Sean Anders certainly couldn't have predicted that Daddy's Home 2 would be released amidst a cultural purging of sexual perversity in just about everywhere, Daddy's Home 2 feels like a wasted opportunity, a film that preaches a kinder and gentler nation while reveling in the mean-spirited emasculating of its men at every turn. The simple truth is that we all know Donald Trump got elected president not because he was the more qualified candidate, but because he was the more entertaining candidate and Anders taps into that embrace of sadistic absurdity in much the same vein.
Some will, of course, embrace Ferrell's Brad, who for all of his wussification is the film's most genuine spirit and a rather good-hearted soul who genuinely tries to be a good father.
It's a pity, really, that Daddy's Home 2 really doesn't do much but make fun of him until, of course, the obligatory happy ending that we're force-fed in an attempt to convince us that everyone here really did live happily ever after.
As Brad's dad Don, John Lithgow is an overwrought, histrionic variation of his usual on-screen persona, a resigned wuss whose greeting upon meeting his son his a full-on kiss on the lips, which in and of itself is fine but is played with such flair that one knows immediately it's being made fun of here. Gibson's character, on the other hand, feels like an over-exaggerated version of his own Hollywood reputation, a type-A womanizer who is repulsed by his son's co-dad status and whose brand of parenting is pretty much hands off unless it's a smackdown.
Even the kids are subjected to humiliation here, Owen Vaccaro's Dylan's first signs of attraction to the opposite sex being subjected to endless barrages of harassment while our young ladies are taunted as they become intoxicated by a spiked punch concoction.
I mean, seriously. Is this funny? Really?
No, it's not.
If I'm being honest, there are laughs to be found in Daddy's Home 2 and there may even be some who consider the film superior to its predecessor with Mel Gibson, in particular, energizing the goings on every time he hits the screen even if it is an uncomfortable squirm as we see all the good will generated by Hacksaw Ridge disappear into thin air in favor of a mostly gentle skewing of his off-screen persona. The ending, wholly undeserved, will nonetheless play well with Ferrell fans and will at least have you leaving the theater with a little holiday cheer even if it's as artificial as the godawful Christmas muzak in your neighborhood Wal-Mart store.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic