Daddy’s Home 2 (2017)

More Daddies. More Problems.

I’m not ashamed to admit it, but I actually liked Daddy’s Home, the 2015 comedy that saw Will Ferrell’s kind-hearted man-child, Brad Whitaker, duke it out against the biological father of his wife’s children, Mark Wahlberg’s ultra-cool Dusty Mayron. Even though things played out in a rather formulaic manner, Daddy’s Home was still a boisterously fun holiday yarn, the Sean Anders-directed hit culminating with a big, giddy dance number that left me feeling quite ‘merry.’ It’s only fitting, then, that this (inevitable) follow-up takes place over the merriest of seasons, Christmastime, with Anders and co. adding Mel Gibson, Lethal Weapon (1987), and John Lithgow, Shrek (2001), to their line-up of daddies for some extra star-power, the veteran actors joining the cohort as Dusty and Brad’s fathers respectively.

Father Doesn’t Know Best

Daddy’s Home 2 basically picks up some months after the events of first film. Brad is still a hot cocoa drinking dag who’s happy to share daddy duties with the macho Dusty, the ‘co-dads’ fist-bumping one another, totally convinced that they’re the bestest of buds. You see, in order to keep the peace, the pair has learned to live with one another despite their opposing personalities and former bitterness. After attending their daughter’s school play, where Megan (Scarlett Estevez) makes it clear that she doesn’t like Christmas, Brad and Dusty decide that, this year, they’re going to have a ‘together Christmas’ so that their kids won’t have to travel back and fourth between families on the special day. Although this joint celebration was bound to cause some sort of tension, filmmaker Sean Anders — working (once again) from a script he co-wrote with John Morris — elevates the strain by having Brad and Dusty’s own fathers show up for the occasion.

Dusty’s ‘old man,’ Kurt — an impeccably cast Mel Gibson — is a retired astronaut with an icy heart, this alpha-male perhaps a parody of Gibbo’s own toxic persona. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have Brad’s pops Don (John Lithgow), a well-meaning namby-pamby who greets his over-enthusiastic son with a big jalopy kiss — on the lips. As one would expect, the granddads are instant foes, their contrasting personalities a clever extension of Brad and Dusty’s already dissimilar dynamic. And so, with such a large number of people to facilitate, Kurt decides to rent a luxury mountainside AirBnB where the ‘happily’ blended crew can just unwind and enjoy the yuletide season. Needless to say, chaos ensues when Kurt makes it his mission to drive a wedge between Dusty and Brad, who have become accustom to being co-fathers, this rift opening old wounds and threatening to derail the entire vacation.

Peace, Comfort and Joy … Maybe next year.

Littered with comical set pieces and light-hearted slapstick, Daddy’s Home 2 essentially copies the same winning formula of its predecessor, only this time upping the ante. There’s a great scene that sees the two dads (and granddads) offer ‘dad-vice’ to their young son, Dylan (Owen Vaccaro), who’s beginning to show an interest in girls, and a amusing sequence where the men argue and fuss over the temperature of the cabin they’re sharing. Will Ferrell, as per usual, has a couple of solid physical gags, one where he loses control of a snow blower, which winds up obliterating the family’s flashy outdoor Christmas display (Griswold style), and another where he’s shown up by a computerized shower. He’s even tricked into cutting down a real tree, Brad spontaneously destroying a cell-phone tower that costs the family about $20,000 — sheesh, talk about expensive tastes.

Although the goofy Ferrell and charismatic Wahlberg reprise their roles with giddy delight, it’s really new players Gibson and Lithgow who shine brightest. Trading glances with pretty flight attendants (a third his age), Mel Gibson’s grandpa Kurt is introduced coming down an airport escalator to the sounds of AC/DC’s thumping ‘Thunderstruck,’ Mad Mel clearly relishing the role of the old school manly man who mocks his son’s softer side. Sure, his character is a relentless womanizer and a master manipulator, but it’s great seeing the 61-year-old satirize himself in a comical context, having fun in the process. Similarly, John Lithgow is terrific as Ferrell’s dorky, fast-talking dad Don, the 3rd Rock from the Sun alumni nailing his merry-go-round moments (Don becoming somewhat of a ‘snowball magnet’ at a nativity re-enactment), along with the script’s more sombre beats, Brad eventually learning that his father isn’t as invincible as he once thought.

You can’t re-gift family

The always-gorgeous Linda Cardellini, Scooby-Doo (2002), has more to do as Brad’s (patient) wife Sara, who’s trying hard to play nice with her ex-hubby’s shoplifting trophy wife Karen (Brazilian model Alessandra Ambrosio), while youngster Didi Costine, The Hollars (2016), is feisty as Dusty’s cheeky stepdaughter Adrianna, who decides that it’d be a good idea to get drunk on spiked eggnog. Last but not least, John Cena continues to impress, the former WWE star extending on his cameo from the first film as Karen’s no-nonsense ex-husband, Roger.

If you thought the notion of a jaunty Christmas flick starring ‘bad boy’ Gibson was crazy enough, Daddy’s Home 2 finishes with a riotous last act that sees everyone stuck at a Showcase Cinemas — due to a violent blizzard — where they’re forced to go and see a Chrissy centered Liam Neeson action-thriller titled Missile Tow. By the time the cast starts singing their own rendition of Band Aid’s ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ I can assure you that you’ll be grinning from ear to ear, which, let’s be honest, is the main reason why we go to see these types of festive entertainers in the first place — to feel good!

3.5 / 5 – Great

Reviewed by Mr. Movie

Daddy’s Home 2 is released through Paramount Pictures Australia