Director: Sean Anders
Cast: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Linda Cardellini, John Cena, John Lithgow, Mel Gibson
Runtime: 1 hr 40 mins
Rating: PG (Some Sexual References)
Released By: UIP
Opening Day: 30 November 2017
Synopsis: In the sequel to the 2015 global smash, father and stepfather, Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) and Brad (Will Ferrell) have joined forces to provide their kids with the perfect Christmas. Their newfound partnership is put to the test when Dusty’s old-school, macho Dad (Mel Gibson) and Brad’s ultra- affectionate and emotional Dad (John Lithgow) arrive just in time to throw the holiday into complete chaos.
‘Daddy’s Home’ was no classic, but Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg’s pair of duelling dads Brad and Dusty, there was enough odd-couple laughs to bring on the holiday cheer – and it seems, to justify a sequel as well. Again directed by Sean Anders, ‘Daddy’s Home 2’ ups the ante by adding another pair of contrasting dads, or to be precise, granddads. No less than John Lithgow and Mel Gibson have joined the ensemble, the former as Ferrell’s hugs-and-kisses touchy-feely dad Don and the latter as Wahlberg’s bad-boy womanising dad Kurt.
It isn’t hard to see where it is going; not only will Don and Kurt find it difficult to get along, their presence will also reignite the rivalry between Brad and Dusty, testing their new ‘co-dads’ arrangement for their two preteen kids Megan (Scarlett Estevez) and Dylan (Owen Vaccaro). Seeing as how this is meant yet again for the holidays, you can be sure that there will be a mawkish happily-ever-after at the end of it all – and let’s just say this one involves the 1984 Band Aid Christmas tune ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ that was written for the African famine relief.
The script by Anders and returning co-writer John Morris packs the whole family off for an extended getaway up in an enormous cabin in the woods that Kurt has booked impromptu on AirBnb. Hijinks that ensue include a Christmas tree-cutting mishap, a runaway snowplow that rides a string of Christmas rides onto the roof of the cabin (and then crashes down on Dusty’s car), a wild turkey shoot that lands up with someone being shot in the shoulder, and last but not least a living nativity gone awry. Like the first movie, such mayhem-filled slapstick gags are its definition of funny, and while clearly over-the-top, they are at least fitfully amusing, in large part because Ferrell throws himself wholeheartedly into his usual buffoonery act.
Sustaining the momentum from one gag to another comes at the expense though of genuine character work, and though the emphasis here is on the importance of family relationships however trying they may be at times, it seems that the storytelling could well benefit from the very message it wants to impart. Except for a running gag involving Dylan’s crush on the girl-next-door that brings to the fore Brad and Dusty’s dissimilar parenting styles, too little regard is given to Dusty and Kurt’s unresolved issues, or Brad and Don’s strained relationship after the former discovers that the latter has been hiding a secret about his mother, or even the tension between Dusty and his new stepdaughter Adrianna (Didi Costine).
Ultimately, much of the movie’s charm rests on the brew of chemistry between its A-list cast. This is Ferrell and Wahlberg’s third film together (after the cop spoof ‘The Nice Guys’ and the first ‘Daddy’s Home’), and both actors work their routines like clockwork – one the earnestly clumsy oaf, and the other the perpetually exasperated tough-guy. Adding the granddads into the mix gives Ferrell and Lithgow some choice scenes together, such as their moments of physical affection and their stand-up comedy practices. There is less of that father-son bonding between Wahlberg and Gibson, the latter of whom is employed at times as an audience surrogate and therefore kept on the sidelines of the unfolding tomfoolery.
Yet as a holiday release, ‘Daddy’s Home 2’ does bring on the cheer, even though it is on the whole less consistently amusing as its predecessor. The jokes don’t always hit the mark, but the cast make them a lot more enjoyable than they probably are in substance. And of course, there is the cathartic feel-good ending, where John Cena shows up as Adrianna’s biological father and Liam Neeson turns up in a faux-Christmas thriller at the multiplex called ‘Missile Tow’. Oh yes, it plays entirely by formula all right, but you’ll find yourself chuckling along with the absurdity and inanity nonetheless, and remembering that at the end of it all, family makes all the difference.
(It doesn't always bring home the laughs, but there is enough good-natured humour, odd-couple chemistry and feel-good moments to leave you in a jolly Christmas mood)
Review by Gabriel Chong