There’s an old movie-making adage about sending the audience home happy. They’ll forgive whatever happened in the preceding 90 minutes, so long as you nail the landing, and send them home with a smile on their face. The first Daddy’s Home film made me think of this. It was a film I expected to be the absolute quintessence of average. And to be fair, it was exactly that. A lazy, pedestrian, and utterly predictable third-tier Will Ferrell comedy about a sensitive step dad competing with the Alpha biological dad. Yawn.
However, the final scene at the school dance really made me laugh, as did the John Cena cameo just before the end credits. Ten minutes of genuine laughs erased the memory of the not very entertaining film I’d been watching, and lo and behold, I went home happy. Daddy’s Home 2 however, did not send me home happy. In fact, it made me very unhappy.
The plot sees Brad (Will Ferrell) and Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) picking up where they left the first film, successfully co-parenting their kids. When they realise however that the constant back and forth between houses is affecting the kids, they decide to do a big family Christmas with everyone together. This includes their dads. Brad’s father is Don (John Lithgow), who like Brad is very sensitive, caring, and positive. Then there’s Dusty’s father Kurt, played by Mel Gibson. Guess what, he’s an ignorant old arsehole.
Like most bad comedy sequels it is a complete rehash of the original, going almost beat for beat in terms of jokes, set-pieces, and schmaltzy emotional breakthroughs. All the best moments are in the 2-minute trailer, leaving very little to recommend about the remaining 98-minutes.
The casting of Mel Gibson could have been an inspired addition to the film, in the same way Barbara Streisand and Dustin Hoffman were in Meet the Fockers. Instead he is reduced to riffing on his persona as a right-wing shit-bag. It is a one-note character and a one-note performance. They could have done something really funny and subversive with Gibson in this role, but it is a complete waste. It makes me wonder why they even bothered to cast him in the first place.
But then the whole time I was watching Daddy’s Home 2, I kept getting this sense of ultra conservative politics creeping in from the periphery. I suppose this isn’t entirely surprising given it’s an American film about family values, but it still goes someway to explain why someone like Mel Gibson – no stranger himself to extremely right-wing opinions – might find his way into a supposedly gentle Christmas comedy.
There is an awful sequence about gun ownership, and children being allowed to use guns, which given America’s recent history made me want to vomit. You could perhaps argue that the filmmakers wanted to create something that reflected the cultural divide in America. Hence the attempt to find comedy in the differences between the wussy liberal snowflakes and the masculine Alpha-dogs. But that would be giving them too much credit. This is a very problematic film. Tone deaf and horribly unfunny. It is awful.
Cast: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, John Lithgow, Mel Gibson Director: Sean Anders Writer: Sean Anders & John Morris Released By: Paramount Home Entertainment Certificate: 12 Duration: 100 mins Release Date: 19th March 2018