Hello daddy my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again.
“Alright fellas, we need to cast our new family comedy,” director Sean Anders (Daddy’s Home, Horrible Bosses 2) declared in the first Daddy’s Home 2 meeting, “Somebody that the parents will want to see.” “Al Pacino, Kevin Spacey, Jack Nicolson, Woody Allen!” cried the executives. “Wait, Woody Allen,” Anders pondered, “I like the sound of that, that would make headlines, but we need somebody even more click-baity.” Then, Paramount’s resident klansman cleared his throat from the end of the room. “I have an idea.”
I never expected to welcome Mel Gibson to the world of wholesome(ish) Christmas movies, a world he clearly never intended to enter. It’s impossible to not start this review by talking about him since his stunt casting is so transparently an attempt to give Daddy’s Home 2 any reason, albeit a bad one, to exist. You would think he’d relish in the opportunity to re-enter the mainstream in the broadest possible way, but I do not think I’ve ever seen an actor seem more bored than he does here. As his one note character scoffs at the progressive co-dadding of Will Farrell and Mark Wahlberg’s Brad and Dusty, each line reading is more lethargic than the last. This isn’t Robert De Niro in Meet The Parents, it’s not even Robert De Niro in Dirty Grandpa, it’s Robert De Niro in The Big Wedding.
The rest of Daddy’s Home 2 is just business as usual, and business is slow. The first film could be described as mildly amusing, despite best efforts to resist it, but there seems to be an active attempt to suck out whatever charm was there before. This is a movie where an entire fifteen minutes is dedicated to Wahlberg’s stepdaughter turning up the thermostat too high and that’s only one of the more painful elements.
The once-inspired chemistry between Farrell and Wahlberg has withered to the point of pure apathy. They’re both coasting on the same old personalities that audiences apparently love. Farrell is daft, feminine and apparently superhuman since he survives some straight-up fatal pratfalls. Wahlberg is a stern motormouth. Isn’t it funny to listen to the two of them talk over each other in obviously improvised arguments that go on for far too long? I guess, if you’ve never seen a comedy before. The only one who seems to be trying is John Lithgow as Farrell’s coddling father, who does bring a certain amount of genuine sweetness and emotional weight to the film.
That said, this movie has some nerve to attempt to hit some serious notes in the middle of this vast valley of stupid. There are some moments, especially with Lithgow, that veer into attempted dramatic territory. However, it’s hard to care when you’ve just been exposed to over an hour of bare minimum ensemble comedy that makes Grown Ups 2 look like a Christopher Guest movie. That said, the film’s Hallmark level sappy climax feels a little less abrasive and more in line with the tone of the first movie. It’s the only moment where I felt anything but the silence of sleep closing in.
I’ll give Daddy’s Home 2 this, it’s not nearly as soul shockingly abysmal as Farrell’s summer “comedy,” The House. It’s never anything less than watchable, but that should be the bare minimum for a film released on over 3000 screens, shouldn’t it? In fact, AMC had a promo with the cast before this started where they all were like “we’re so thankful for you coming to the movie theater,” and let me tell you if they wants to stop MoviePass and Netflix and save cinema they’re going to have to do better than this.