Greg Eichelberger reviews 'Daddy's Home 2'

Greg Eichelberger
Staff Writer

Coming just a week after the debut of “A Bad Moms Christmas” this sequel is another part of the recent trend in dysfunctional family holiday movies.
Based on the tradition of of bad movies such as "I Love The Coopers," "Christmas Office Party" and "The Night Before," among others.
Ah, what would this time of the season be without another motion picture featuring fights, alcohol abuse by minors, mixed (and mixed-up) families, rude children and their psychological disorders, divorce, angry step-parents, sacrilegious sequences, serious physical and mental injury,
Happy Holidays and God Bless Us Everyone — that we will NEVER have to see another film like this — at least until NEXT Christmas!
Here, based on the first, "Daddy's Home" (from 2015) features intergenerational love, acceptance and different parenting styles, but “Daddy’s Home 2” slightly gets the edge in both comedy and interest. Which is like saying World War I was slightly better than the Second World War or that Ted Bundy was a bit nicer than John Wayne Gacy ...
The surreal and silly sequel tries to play off the somewhat still-appealing (but rapidly foundering) comic personas of stars Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg and their somewhat ridiculous chemistry. Ferrell ("The House") plays the wimpy, uncoordinated, idiotic Brad who marries Dusty's (Wahlberg, "Transformers: The Last Knight") ex-wife, Sara (Linda Cardellini, "The Founder") and sort of inherits her disinterested and genetically- indifferent children Dylan and Megan (oh, who cares who plays them at this point?!).
Co-writer and director Sean Anders ("Daddy's Home," "Horrible Bosses 2," "Dumb and Dumber, To") returns to helm the family comedy, While milquetoast sweetie stepdad Brad managed to exert his sensitive, leftist progressive influence on tough guy Dusty (Wahlberg), it’s a whole new ballgame when their respective fathers come to town.
Jon Lithgow ("The Accountant") is well-cast as Brad’s dad, Don, aka "Pop Pop," a chatty retired mailman with cookies in his pocket. Then there’s Dusty’s father, Kurt (Mel Gibson, Golden Globe-nominated director for "Hacksaw Ridge"), who goes by “El Padre” with the kids and is a womanizing, virulently macho former astronaut who keeps trying to give his granddaughter a shotgun for Christmas.
These are the only funny sequences of this picture — and the term 'funny"is used with terrific looseness.
With the addled dads around, these antics become frantic. The mania produced by four warring fathers, two mothers (Alessandra Ambrosio, "Daddy's Home," "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of the Shadows" and plays Dusty's new wife, Karen, a world-famous novelist) and her ill-mannered, cell phone-obsessed brat never stops to fully run its course.
There’s plenty of chances for laughs here, though, but little comes of it. Brad is such a complete and utter moron (destroying a snowblower, the holiday decorations, a sled, himself) it's a wonder he is married, a father or has even survived at all.
Meanwhile there's a running thermostat dad joke that would have been that much funnier with more time, but the film zips through jokes and plot points to fit them all in.
Lithgow’s character is conceived and performed with so many details that the producers believe he practically deserves a spinoff sitcom (maybe they could call it "Third Rock From the Sun," or something like that). He loves improv comedy and even kisses his son on the lips (what's new in today's films, however?).
The underbelly here is to celebrating softer male emotions and sensitivities, and Don is the representation of how that makes people around him feel warm and happy. That idea, of course, needs a foil, which is represented by the hilarious macho swagger of Kurt. The casting of Gibson is pretty good here, as well.
Of course, the conservative Kurt is the villain of the film, encouraging violence between the dads and aggressive sexuality on little Dylan, who has his first crush. He gives obviously egregiously bad advice, urging his grandson to kiss the girl he likes and “smack her on the caboose.”
But the film wants to have it both ways, playing it for laughs. The casual sexual harassment incites groans instead (Gibson’s background doesn’t help), while Brad lectures on the “friend zone” and manages to skip actually talking about consent (yawn).
Then we are treated to an appearance by former wrestler Jon Cena ("Trainwreck") as Karen's ex and the film concludes with a power outage and a full theater (unlike the preview I attended) and a takeoff on a Liam Neesom film.
“Daddy’s Home 2” has its highs and lows, but the lows far outnumber the real enjoyment. And while at times it feels like too many parents and their ridiculous problems (for instance, Sara is in constant competition with the kleptomaniac Karen), they eventually all learn to “co-dad,” in some kind of harmony. Grade: C-