Let’s get this out of the way first, as a story, Daddy’s Home 2 shouldn’t exist. There’s really no reason to. The conflict between Brad (Will Ferrell) and Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) had wrapped up, and they had figured out a way to be good co-dads to the kids. The movie ends (spoiler alert for the end of the first Daddy’s Home if you’re worried about that sort of thing) with a series of “where are they now” jokes that set up Dusty getting remarried, having a stepdaughter of his own, and having a new dad that treated Dusty the same way he treated Brad throughout the movie. It’s a fine, silly, funny enough ending to a funny enough movie, but it’s very existence is a source of constant frustration watching the sequel. We’ll get to why in a second.
At the start of Daddy’s Home 2, Brad and Dusty are killing it on the co-parenting front. They’ve figured out how to balance their lives so that they’re always doing what’s best for their kids. And they’re also best friends. So things are going pretty great until, in the middle of a school christmas performance, their daughter reads an essay about how she doesn’t like Christmas because every year she’s forced to spend two Christmases with two different families. So Brad decides that this year, they’re going to have one big Christmas for everyone. But, big twist of the movie, everyone ends up including Brad’s father and Dusty’s father (John Lithgow and Mel Gibson respectively) who join everyone on a trip up to a mountain cabin for the holiday. Both of the new dads are exaggerated, over the top versions of their sons (who were pretty over the top caricatures themselves to begin with) Mel Gibson’s Kurt is a cool, suave, smooth talking guy, who’s view on the world is about as man’s man as you can get. Lithgow’s Don on the other hand takes Ferrel’s more tender characteristics from the first movie and cranks that up to eleven to become what is essentially the human personification of a hug from a rainbow.
This pairing feels like a full on flanderization of the setup from before. The first movie was already about the different parenting styles between a cool dad and more mild mannered but present stepdad. We already got to see that parenting odd couple set up, but now we’ve added characters who are even further apart on the spectrum of humanity. It feels like we’re supposed to get more comedy about Gibson and Lithgow’s styles classing off each other, but by this point, they’re so different the two characters are almost incomparable. The antics between these two stall out pretty quickly, and we end up getting two parallel storylines of Brad and Dusty trying to deal with their respective fathers. The movie works better when one of the other family members is dealing with either grandfather character than when the two grandfathers try to deal with each other.
But the thing that really drags the whole movie down, is the corner the franchise (if you want to call it that) painted itself into with the end of the previous movie. It was funny to introduce this whole new family that Dusty has at the end of the first movie, but since the movie was a success we got a sequel and now we’re stuck with these characters. To its credit, the movie tries it’s best to make these characters a part of the story, but they always feel stuck on the outside. Alessandra Ambrosio was a great choice when the joke was just that Dusty remarried an incredibly attractive woman, but now that she’s part of the cast, there are more than a few scenes where it’s awkward to watch her interact. The one good addition to the cast would be John Cena (the biological father to Dusty’s stepdaughter). Cena is someone who’s becoming a movie star and has made great strides in his career since his one line cameo in the first movie, but for some reason, he doesn’t get to show up till the last third of the movie. Even though this is supposed to be a movie that focuses on fatherhood, this relationship is largely ignored until it’s crammed in toward the end of the movie.
It’s a movie with genuinely funny people it is, and Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg have proven that they have great “Odd Couple” style chemistry together so there are funny moments in the movie. But it would have been better to see these two play two new character in a new situation rather than try and extend the life of a story that has nowhere to go but down.
Tags: daddy's home, daddy's home 2, film, John Cena, john lithgow, Mark Wahlberg, Mel Gibson, movie, review, Will Ferrell