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 Too Many Daddies 

Mark Wahlberg
Mark Wahlberg
Paramount Pictures
 100 Minutes
Directed bySean Anders
Starring: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg 
Daddy's Home 2

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but in Hollywood, imitation is the surest sign of studio groupthink and braindeadedness. One week after the arrival of A Bad Moms Christmas in theaters, a holiday-themed sequel to a surprise comedy hit, we get Daddy’s Home 2, another holiday-themed sequel to another surprise comedy hit. The only difference between the two would seemingly be the existence of one less dad than there were moms in the mix this time around, leading one to think that the films are part of an ode to Christmas displayed on the multiplex marquee (“On the third day of Christmas, my true love and I went to see, three bad moms, two dumb dads, and a murder on the Orient Express.”)


Actually, the similarities between Daddy’s Home 2 and A Bad Moms Christmas run even deeper than the holiday theme. Just as the Moms sequel featured some name actresses as the moms of moms, Daddy’s Home 2 features John Lithgow and Mel Gibson as the dads of, respectively Will Ferrell’s Brad and Mark Wahlberg’s Dusty from the first movie. In that film, the responsible but square and rather dorky Brad was the stepfather of Dusty’s two children and, by default, their primary caregiver and role model. When the exceedingly macho, exceedingly cool, and exceedingly undependable Dusty tried to come back into his kids’ lives, a healthy box office full of hilarity ensued, ending with Brad and Dusty bonding together to help raise the children.


By the time the sequel rolls around, Brad and Dusty are still best buds, and Brad suggests they spend Christmas together as a blended family to avoid splitting time between households. To make it even more family fun, Brad invites his dad, whom he hasn’t seen for seemingly ages, or, actually, since Thanksgiving. Unfortunately and uninvitedly, Dusty’s dad Kurt, whom he hasn’t seen for actually ages, shows up too. Eventually the graddaddies come along with Bra, Dusty, and the kids to spend Christmas week at a ski resort, courtesy of Kurt.


Kurt and Don are essentially older versions of their sons with their sons’ personality flaws on display through a magnifying glass. Kurt is an ex-astronaut ladies man, totally macho and overbearing jerk. Don, who is given to kissing Brad on the lips, is a glass-half-full people person who enjoys taking longer connecting flights so he can spend more time getting to know people. While the presence of Don leads to some awkward moments, the presence of Kurt threatens to turn the entire holiday into a disaster, as his criticism of Dusty’s parenting skills leads to friction between the families.


Anyone expecting to learn about to learn more about improving parenting skills would probably be better off watching A Bad Moms Christmas again rather than sit through the two hours of recycled holiday gifts on display in Daddy’s Home 2. The one thing the movie demonstrates repeatedly is the willingness of Will Ferrell (or his stunt double) to make himself look stupid and inflict worse repeated trauma on himself than Wile E. Coyote ever had to endure. Writer/director Sean Anders seems to have forgotten what made the initial film work, so he falls back on the ready standby of crude and cruel slapstick. Thus, we get an extended sequence (shown below) involving Ferrell, Christmas tree lights, and a snowblower that only serves to illustrate how much better Chevy Chase handled the same setup in Christmas Vacation. Further, while Chase got understandably perturbed when his Christmas fell apart, Ferrell simply bounces up with his silly Elf-grin ready for more. And, sure enough, Anders gives it to him in the form of a scene involving Ferrell, a chainsaw, an attempt to cut down a cell phone tower that he thinks is a Christmas tree, and a near miss castration involving said chainsaw.


Since Ferrell and Wahlberg are reduced to pale imitations of themselves from the first film, the burden falls on senior cast members Gibson and Lithgow to pick up the slack. And so they do, at least to the extent the script lets them. Poor John Lithgow has almost no good lines and is reduced to trying to mine laughs out of hugging everyone in sight. Mel Gibson at least gets his share of jokes, some of them slightly sanitized versions of material one could have read in Playboy a half century ago, but he manages to play off his well-known onscreen persona quite well. And, when the four-man dynamic gets stale an hour or so into the movie, Anders brings back another actor from the first film, wrestler John Cena as the father of Dusty’s bratty step-daughter. Cena doesn’t get nearly the credit he deserves as a comic actor, but he has improved every film in which I have seen him, including Daddy’s Home 2.


While 90% or more of the screenplay is predictable pablum, Daddy’s Home 2 has a couple of inspired scenes. The best one involves the extended family playing the various characters in a manger scene and trying to stay in character as Joseph, Mary, and the various wise men as tensions among them continue to escalate. Needless to say, the scene doesn’t end well, and Anders for once knows how to build his material up as the scene progresses.


The other enjoyable scene in the film is actually a movie-within-a-movie, as the family winds up spending Christmas Day in a traditional way, going to the movies. And, not just any movie, but a distinctly holiday-themed one, Liam Neeson in Missile Tow, an inspired creation of Anders’ in which Neeson supposedly plays a tow truck driver trying to thwart terrorists who have stolen a nuclear missile. The audience gets to hear clips of Neeson reciting dialogue that is a dead-on skewering of typical Neeson action films. My only regret with this scene was that we didn’t actually get to see a bit of Neeson’s movie (but I trust that someone will greenlight the project.


Unfortunately, nobody should have greenlit Daddy’s Home 2, a movie that, even giving it the benefit of the doubt, contains at best a half hour of decent footage. Ferrell and Wahlberg have a good comic chemistry, but it is not served well here. The movie is a distinct step down from last week’s A Bad Moms Christmas, which was, itself, no classic. It’s difficult to be too hard on this movie (it is the holiday season after all), but Daddy’s Home 2 is not the gift you want to find under your Christmas tree. 

In this scene, Will Ferrell has a mishap involving a snowblower.

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Daddy's Home 2 (2017) on IMDb