Daddy’s Home 2 (2017) Review
A SHALLOW CHRISTMAS
Toward the end of 2015, the comedy film Daddy’s Home emerged as the one of the last comedy feature films of the year. Directed by Sean Anders, the movie, which starred Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, follow the plights of Brad Whitaker, who seeks to be the best dad for his stepchildren. Unfortunately, Brad’s wishes to be “father of the year” to them is cut short when their biological father, Dusty Mayron returns, causing a comedic “dad-off” between the two in proving which one is the best for the children. While the premise was simply and had potential, especially since this was the second film collaboration of Ferrell and Wahlberg following the 2010 movie The Other Guys, Daddy’s Home was met with harsh negative criticism from both viewers and critics alike. That being said, the movie did prove to be a somewhat commercial success, grossing roughly $240 million at the box office against its $69 production budget as well as being Ferrell’s highest grossing live-action film to date. Now, roughly two years later, Paramount Pictures and director Sean Anders, as well as Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg return for holiday comedy sequel with the film Daddy’s Home 2. Does this follow-up installment improve from its predecessor or is it another dud with a Christmas twist?
After their initial splat of who’s the better father, dads Brad Whitaker (Will Ferrell) and Dusty Mayron (Mark Wahlberg) are now a cohesive fathering team unit, enjoying each other’s company and offering a “co-dad” support for their multi-family challenge. With the Christmas right around the corner, Brad and Dusty decided not to spilt their family up during this joyous time, inspiring a joint holiday celebration for them all to share together. Unfortunately, trouble immediately drops on their doorstep with the arrival of Brad’s dad, Don (John Lithgow), and Dusty’s father, Kurt (Mel Gibson). At the behest of Kurt, the family decides to rent a luxury cabin for the Christmas week, providing enough open air and shared living space for all. However, much like how Dusty to be, Kurt’s masculine opinions conflict with Brad’s more sensitive ways as well as chiding Dusty’s general softening attitude, which begins to draw a wedge between the Brad and Dusty’s co-dad relationship. While Brad’s wife Sara (Linda Cardellini) and Dusty’s wife Karen (Alessandra Ambrosio) deal with their own tensions with each other, their children enjoy the holiday celebration with mischief, while Don remains evasive about his wife’s absences during the trip, revealing his loneliness.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
I remember feeling excited to see Daddy’s Home when it was first released in theaters back towards the end of 2015. I’m was a fan of Ferrell and Wahlberg’s separate film career projects as well as their pairing collaboration for the 2010 buddy cop comedy movie The Other Guys. Thus, I was looking forward to see this second collaboration of both Ferrell and Wahlberg together. Plus, the film’s trailers made Daddy’s Home look pretty funny. Unfortunately, the end result was disappointing as I found Daddy’s Home to be bland, lackluster, and unfunny in both the humorous written / physical material given (see my review Daddy’s Home HERE). This movie even made my list for my Top 10 Worst Movies of 2015 (see HERE). So, I find it surprising that the movie, which was so negatively panned by critics and moviegoers, made a modest profit at the box office and was even greenlit for a sequel.
Of course, this brings us to the present in this review for Daddy’s Home 2. When I heard the news that they (the studio) was going to make a Daddy’s Home sequel, I couldn’t believe it and (within time) the movie trailers began to roll out for this comedy sequel. As many times I go to my local theater, I virtual saw the Daddy’s Home 2 trailer almost every time (be it kid’s PG movie, a blockbuster PG-13 flick, or an R-rated feature). Thus, even if I didn’t want to see the movie, it was presented to be on the big screen almost every time I went to see a movie at my local theater. Given the fact that the first movie left a sour taste in my mouth, I really didn’t have high hopes for this next installment. However, being an aspiring movie critic, I decide to see if this sequel had more to offer than the original film. So, what did I think of it? Well, while the movie does have a few more laughs than its predecessor, Daddy’s Home 2 does little to improve on the negative comments made in the first one. In short, the movie is just as bland and formulaic as the before…. just with a Christmas holiday twist.
Returning to direct Daddy’s Home 2 is Sean Anders, who’s previous directorial includes the first Daddy’s Home (naturally) as well as Sex Drive, That’s My Boy, and Horrible Bosses 2. One of the positives that this film has going for it is the fact that it has more of a direction than the original Daddy’s Home. The first movie was more about the initial clash of dad vs. stepdad and trying to “one up” each other in trying to prove who’s the better father for their family. This caused the first Daddy’s Home to be a hodgepodge of ideas, allowing a cartoon-ish vehicle for Ferrell and Wahlberg to get behind in showcasing a lot of wacky comedy skits to play out, with many not sticking. This time around, Anders seems a bit more focused in helming this comedy sequel; settling into a Christmas holiday themed as the film’s overall narrative premise. This allows the film to have direction, especially in adding the grandfather characters (Kurt and Don) as well as the rest of the family members. Thus (and this is only slightly), Daddy’s Home 2 is a tad superior to Daddy’s Home. Also, in terms of filmmaking presentation, Daddy’s Home 2 is your typically standard comedy endeavor in today’s movie world. Thus, all the camera angles, production designs, set decorations and other moviemaking nuances are fine, but nothing grand. So, don’t expect some type of clever cinematography trick or something “eye popping” in the movie.
Unfortunately, Daddy’s Home 2 has more negatives than positives, with many problems soon arising with the first ten minutes of the movie. Perhaps the most noticeable one is that the film is somewhat of a recycle version of the first movie. While Daddy’s Home 2 has a vaguely humorous premise (i.e. the introduction of the fathers to Brad and Dusty), the movie seems to rehash the same premise from the first film into this one, finding Brad and Dusty once again feuding with each other on who can be the better “father figure” to their kids. The film’s script, which was written by Anders as well as Brian Burns and John Morris follows a predictable and formulaic path that seems to rely too much on its comedic premise and lacks any heart whatsoever. Even when presented with a impacful / heartfelt scene (revolving around Brad’s dad Don), the movie never fully embraces it and follows through in seeing it to a satisfying end. All in all, the narrative premise and structure in Daddy’s Home 2 seems very weak and derivate, especially when comparing to similar comedy movies as well as its original 2015 film (just repurpose and tweaked here and there). Yes, I did say that this comedy sequel has a more of a direction than its predecessor, but that doesn’t mean that it’s completely focused on the task at hand. Many of the narrative’s sub-plots that are presented lack a sort of guidance focus and never follow through with their objective. This includes, several of the kids’ storylines (Dylan liking a girl, Megan trying to become like Adrianna, and Adrianna being difficult with mostly everyone, etc.) or Sara’s sneaky suspicion of Karen’s constant judging her and taking down notes about her. In short, most (if not all) of these side-stories fail to impress and feel half-baked ideas.
Another problem with this movie is found within its comedy. While I stated that the comedy is slightly better in this movie versus the original film, it doesn’t mean its truly great. There are a few chuckled moments to be had in this sequel, but those are few and far between, lacking the consistency of creative / innovative comedy dialogue and / or physical comedy gags and relying on several corny or over-the-top scenarios. Basically, the movie is not as funny and / or clever with its comedic gags as it wants to be. In truth, never really finds its own stride, trying to sort of “piggy back” off some other ideas that have been used before (in better movies). Moreover, the film’s comedy is a very perplexing one as it seems stuck between juvenile humor to light PG-13 humor. This, of course, makes the movie’s comedy tone awkward as Anders (along with Burns and Morris) don’t really know which one to stick to, which makes the humorous comedy aspect in a constant tug-of-war. To be honest, the movie should’ve been placed under a R-rating to allow a lot funnier adult jokes and gags to pepper the film in order to elevate the stall narrative story. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen and Daddy’s Home 2’s comedy is stuck in a rut, which hampers the comedy bits.
This also extends to the Christmas holiday theme that Daddy’s Home 2 is placed in. As to be expected, what follows throughout the movie is your standard routines found within a Christmas comedy (i.e. picking out a tree, decoration, hanging lights, eggnog, etc.), which are usually presented in a comical light to be played for laughs. Unfortunately, while the movie has all this, Daddy’s Home 2 never truly comes into it own (in regards to this expected holiday scenarios); feeling derivate to other holiday comedies out there (Bad Santa, Office Christmas Party, and A Bad Moms Christmas) and playing for “cheap laughs”. The movie does try to make his own mark of a holiday parody (i.e. riffing on the Christmas song “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid), but even that falls flat and doesn’t help make the movie finds its place in being a memorable Christmas comedy endeavor.
As to be expected, Daddy’s Home 2 sees to reunite most of the principal cast of characters from the first film, with actors Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg returning to reprise their respected lead roles as Brad Whitaker and Dusty Mayron. Ferrell, known for his roles in Step Brothers, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, easily slides back into Brad; a mild-mannered straight-laced individual. Unfortunately, as many will attest to, Ferrell has lost his comedic edge of late, with Daddy’s Home 2 being a prime example. He has some chuckled moments here and there in the movie, but it’s hardly the comedic gold that he many of us knew when Ferrell was in his prime comedic years. In contrast to Ferrell’s Brad, Wahlberg, known for his roles in Deepwater Horizon, Patriots Day, and Transformers: The Last Knight, is fine as the manly yet slightly reformed Dusty and (in truth) is actual the better character (both in development and in comedic beats) of the two leads. Wahlberg has proven himself to be a very versatile actor by appearing in several different film genres and it does show as he does have that “likeable” personality in Daddy’s Home 2. However, his character relationship with his father (Kurt) never grows or even evolves beyond a caricature level, which hampers Dusty’s character development growth…. even for a comedy film. As a whole, Ferrell and Wahlberg have good on-screen chemistry, with the movie once again playing to their strength. However, much like the first film, both characters are too restraint in the movie, finding Brad and Dusty to be flat caricatures with little growth and enjoyment to them. Thus, despite the star power behind them, the two central characters in Daddy’s Home 2 are mundane and the same as the first time we saw them back in 2015.
This, of course, leads me to talking about the two new additions in this sequel; actors Mel Gibson and John Lithgow as Dusty’s dad Kurt Mayron and Brad’s dad Don Whitaker. Gibson, know for his roles in Lethal Weapon, Signs, and Braveheart, seems to be having fun as the more gruff and manly man Kurt, bringing Gibson’s sharp demeanor and dry sense of delivering lines in creating several scenes of comedy levity. However, you can tell that Gibson struggles in hitting improv comedy beats every now and again in the film. Thus, some jokes that he says don’t quite exactly hit their intended mark properly. In addition to that, the whole persona of Kurt, while played to contrast the other three main leads (Ferrell, Wahlberg, and Lithgow), is so mean-spirted. Yes, Kurt’s remarks and the things that he does are played for laughs, but there really no reason for it all nor any really redemption to his character arc. Basically, Kurt doesn’t have a character arc as he simply existence to be a mean-spirited troublemaker. In short, a plot device mechanic. As for Lithgow, known for his roles in Cliffhanger, Shrek, and 3rd Rock from the Sun, fares slightly better as Brad’s goofy / sensitive father Don. Like Gibson, Lithgow does have a fun screen-presence whenever he’s on-screen, which makes his character have a bit sincerer quality to it all (in both comical bits and a few dramatic pieces). Even his character story arc is a heartfelt and much more well-rounded than Gibson’s Kurt. Unfortunately, Lithgow’s Don is mostly played for laughs and his relationship with Ferrell’s Brad, while touching, never really resonates as strong as the writers meant it to be. All in all, both Gibson and Lithgow are fun additions to Daddy’s Home 2. Its just as shame that both characters are thinly written and displayed in such a poor light in the film, despite their two season theatrical charisma.
Beyond those four characters, the rest of cast in Daddy’s Home 2 fail to impress, with most filling out the picture for background continuity reasons and nothing more. This includes actress Linda Cardellini (Grandma’s Boy and Avengers: Age of Ultron) as Sara Whitaker (Brad’s wife / Dusty’s ex-wife), actor Owen Vaccaro (Fun Mom Dinner and Mother’s Day) as Dylan Mayron (Dusty and Sara’s son and Brad’s Stepson), Scarlett Estevez (Lucifer and And Then There Was You) as Megan Mayron (Dusty and Sara’s daughter and Brad’s stepdaughter), Victoria’s Secret model / actress Alessandra Ambrosio (Casino Royale and Hidden Truths) as Karen Mayron (Dusty’s wife and Adrianna’s mother), and actress Didi Costine (The Prince and The Hollars) as Adrianna (Karen’s daughter and Dusty’s stepdaughter). While most of the acting is fine in these respective roles, these characters are far less developed and are thinly written and (as I explained above) are given very flat and unfulfilling sub-plots with unsatisfying conclusions; another thing that adds to the many problems with this movie. Even a small supporting role from WWE / actor John Cena (playing Roger, Karen’s ex-husband, and Adrianna’s father) can’t help Daddy’s Home 2. In truth, Cena, while mostly funny in his recent film appearances (i.e. Sisters and Trainwreck), is really not much in the movie (as the movie trailers make you believe) and he’s really not that humorous either, which is really disappointing.
It’s Christmas time as Brad and Dusty butt heads once again over who’s the better dad and tangle themselves with their own parental fatherly figures in the movie Daddy’s Home 2. Director Sean Anders newest film sees the return of the comedic tomfoolery world of the competing dads, which settles in for a holiday premise as well as the arrival of their own dads. While the movie does have few more chuckle-filled moments than it did in the first film, this sequel is just as bad as the first one, with a recycled formulaic narrative structure, a cliché scenarios, mostly derivate and uninspiring comedic bits, and mean-spirited / flat characters. Personally, I thought this movie was disappointing. It had a few parts where I actually did laugh out loud, but the movie itself was just as shallow and unappealingly bland as the first film was. It was slightly better than the original Daddy’s Home, but gets points taken off because of its recycle usage and derivate scenarios. Thus, I would have to give Daddy’s Home 2 my “skip it” stamp of approval as there’s really no reason to see the movie as it doesn’t offer any appeal, except just to see some of the actors on-screen together. In the end, Daddy’s Home 2 is just another disappointing comedy sequel endeavor by Hollywood, cashing in on the holiday season aspect and nothing more. It’s a half-hearted, half-baked holiday sequel that squanders any potential it as for a recycled misfire.
2.4 Out of 5 (Skip It)
Released On: November 10th, 2017
Reviewed On: November 29th, 2017
Daddy’s Home 2 is 98 minutes long and is rated PG-13 for suggestive material and some language