Movie Review: Daddy’s Home 2

The sequel is a bit better than the original, but still not great

Daddy’s Home 2
Directed by Sean Anders
With Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Linda Cardellini, John Cena, John Lithgow, Mel Gibson

Sequels seldom surpass the originals. Daddy’s Home 2 manages a few more laughs than its 2015 predecessor, but that is admittedly a rather low bar.

Daddy’s Home, for those who missed it, dealt with the return of the tough, motorcycle riding biological father, Dusty (played by Mark Wahlberg), into a family with nebbish stepfather Brad (Will Ferrell) and Dusty’s ex-wife Sara (Linda Cardellini) raising Dusty and Sara’s kids.

Dusty and Brad have drawn a truce and co-parent the children. Things are fine, with Dusty doing his best to put up with Brad’s cloying optimism.

Then out of the blue, Dusty’s father, Kurt (Mel Gibson), invites himself to visit for Christmas. At the same time, Brad’s father, Don (John Lithgow), comes for the holidays.

Kurt, a former Space Shuttle pilot, takes an instant dislike to both Brad and Don, and thinks his grandchildren are being raised too soft. He intends to deflate the bubble of happiness.

To cause the maximum strife, Kurt books a house in the mountains for both Brad’s and Dusty’s families to spend the Christmas holidays in. All told, there are four parents, four kids and two grandparents.

Kurt hopes the closeness will bring the issues between Dusty and Brad to a head. There are also tensions between the two wives, Sara (Linda Cardellini) and Karen (Alessandra Ambrosio) as well as among the kids.

Mel Gibson has been making a comeback, both as a director and actor. He has a good comedic sensibility that is seldom used. As a manipulative troublemaker, he is well cast and does a bit better than Mark Wahlberg did in a similar role in the original film. He jumps right in with inappropriate jokes, overbearing pushiness and awkward comments.

John Lithgow has a more laid back role, showing where Brad’s overly developed sense of niceness came from. He gets some mileage out of telling pointless long stories.

This is a holiday comedy, so the humor is a bit predictable. There are mishaps with decorating, some fuss over the Christmas tree, weather catastrophes, too much egg nog and the like. The cast tries to make them fresh, and succeeds a bit more than it misses.

The addition of the two grandfathers shifts the burden off of the Dusty-Brad relationship, which can be a bit dull. Ferrell plays Brad as a bit of a affable dimwit, and that sort of character is a but past its expiration date. The new rivalry between Kurt and, well, everyone else breathes some life into setups.

The script by Sean Anders and John Morris is a bit rambling, more concerned about setting up jokes than telling a coherent story, but it keeps several plots going at once even if some are left unresolved.

The direction by Sean Anders is also not as tight as it could be, but certainly passable. The slapstick humor, which there is a lot of, works well.

The locations in Massachusetts provide some pleasant wintry scenery.

The film is good enough holiday time waster for people who want something a bit irreverent for the holidays, but it doesn’t rise to the levels of films like the original 2004 comedy Bad Santa or the 1987 Thanksgiving-themed film Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

It is better, though, than the 2016 generic comedy Office Christmas Party or the equally laughless Why Him? from the same year, both of which tried to be irreverent but were mostly just offensive.

It is about on the same par with Bad Santa 2. That sequel was a disappointment compared to its original. Daddy’s Home 2 scores a few bonus points for against the odds being an improvement instead.

Fans of any of the stars, especially Mel Gibson, might want to check it out, but it isn’t destined to be a holiday classic by any means.

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