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Saturday, November 11, 2017

Daddy's Home 2

Just like last weekend's A Bad Moms Christmas, Daddy's Home 2 doubles down on the parental figures, adding some veteran actors to play the parents of the parents from the first movie.  Both are also set during the holidays, and both generally also serve as sequels to movies that didn't need one in the first place.  The main difference?  The Bad Moms sequel was a huge step down from a successful movie, whereas this one ends up being just as workmanlike and uninspired as the first.

Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg are back as the feuding fathers Brad and Dusty, who as the film opens, have agreed to a truce to keep their blended family together.  If you remember from last time, Wahlberg's Dusty was originally married to Sara (Linda Cardellini, given as little to do here as she was before), until they broke up.  Now she's married to Ferrell's Brad, a touchy feeling clutz who can barely enter a room without getting bonked on the head with something.  The fact that the original has spawned a sequel, and the filmmakers still have not explained what Cardellini sees in Ferrell is baffling.  In the first movie, the two dads competed with each other for the love of their shared kids.  Now, they're cooperating as "co-dads", sharing bake sales and school events.  As the holidays approach, both Brad and Dusty's father decide to stop by to visit the family.

Dusty's dad, Kurt (Mel Gibson), is a macho dinosaur with steel gray hair, and frequently cannot leave a place without a woman he's just picked up on his arm.  He hasn't seen his son or family in years, but he quickly sets about criticizing every move Dusty makes.  Brad's father is Don (John Lithgow), a cheery dip of an old man who likes to give very long, wet kisses on the lips to his son.  Not long after the granddads arrive, the whole family decides to pack up and stay in a luxury cabin in the mountains for Christmas.  Tensions are supposed to mount, but thanks to the slapdash nature of the screenplay credited to returning director Sean Anders and John Morris, nothing quite rises to the top.  There's the issue of Don not being able to tell his son that Brad's mom has left him, and Brad and Dusty find their newly formed friendship tested at various times.  All the while, Kurt stands in the background, cackling with evil glee at the family turmoil all around him, and not really contributing much to the plot.  I guess Hollywood's still not sure what to do with Gibson after his long absence. 

Daddy's Home 2 is not unwatchable by any means, and I actually chuckled a few times.  I particularly liked a scene where the whole family finds themselves watching a holiday-themed action movie starring Liam Neeson as a tow truck driver who must battle terrorists while still giving his kids a good Christmas. (It's called Missile Tow, appropriately.) But aside from a fleeting laugh or two, a majority of the film feels like it's been stitched together with the threads of various sitcom plots of the 1980s.  Ferrell's little boy likes a girl, and doesn't know how to talk to her.  Cardellini can't get close to Wahlberg's new wife, who dresses provocatively and is much sexier than her.  There are even a couple eyebrow-raising subplots concerning the little girls in the family.  In one, two of the little girls get drunk on spiked eggnog, and wind up ruining a live Nativity, and in another, one of Ferrell's daughters asks for a shotgun for Christmas at the urging of Grandpa Kurt.  She then ends up accidentally shooting Kurt later in the movie when he takes her out hunting.  I can see how maybe these could have been funny in a much darker and edgier movie, but this seems to want to be a fairly family-friendly comedy, and they really have no place here. 

The other focus of the film's comedy is physical gags, which seem to be heavily influenced by the ones Chevy Chase went through in Christmas Vacation.   Will Ferrell in particular can't walk across a playground without getting kicked in the head by a child on a swingset.  And when he's using a snowblower on the driveway, he winds up sucking up all the Christmas lights into it and being launched up onto the roof.  There's also naturally scenes built around sledding accidents and snowballs to the noggin.  I'm not blaming the filmmakers for including this kind of stuff in a broad Christmas-related comedy.  But they at least could have tried not to make them so agonizingly telegraphed. 

Honestly, I wasn't much of a fan of the first Daddy's Home, but I know people who were.  If you're one of them, you have my permission to go and enjoy.  But if the first didn't do much for you, neither will this.  It's one of those sequels that's created for a pre-made audience, and I'm simply not part of it.  But if I were forced to choose, I would take this over the Bad Moms Christmas, simply because it feels like the actors weren't under the gun when they were making it.

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