"Daddy's Home 2" Furthers Will Ferrell's Recent Slide

When “Daddy’s Home” reunited “The Other Guys” co-stars Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg in late 2015, its oddball mix of banal family comedy and PG-13 edge made for a surprisingly sturdy hit for Paramount Pictures. It even outgrossed “The Other Guys,” almost guaranteeing its writer-director, Sean Anders, a shot at a sequel. But even by the modest standards of the narratively challenged original film, it’s difficult to imagine any moviegoer not being better off without “Daddy’s Home 2,” an unfunny, unpleasant, unabashed cash-in.

Buttoned-up stepdad Brad Whitaker (Ferrell) and rugged nomad-dad Dusty Mayron (Wahlberg) have worked out their issues, settling in comfortably as co-dads to Dylan (Owen Vaccaro) and Megan (Scarlett Estevez). Even Sara Whitaker (Linda Cardellini) marvels at the blooming relationship between her children’s two father figures, basking in a seemingly workable family life. A speed bump appears when Megan complains of having two separate Christmases, but Brad and Dusty agree to one big holiday celebration – a “together Christmas.”

Enter Brad and Dusty’s dads, the nebbishy Don Whitaker (John Lithgow) and mean weirdo Kurt Mayron (Mel Gibson), and a whole new batch of issues for all parties involved.

Chalk Lithgow’s painfully broad performance up to screenwriters without a single idea in their heads and Gibson’s to his increasingly creepy, unwelcome screen presence. Don is bookish obnoxiousness weaponized, while Kurt seems imported from an equally crummy R-rated comedy, left to crack wise about hookers and womanize on the film’s fringes. The duo’s screen time is uniformly uncomfortable, stealing away from what worked in the first film: Ferrell and Wahlberg’s chemistry.

But they don’t get much do to here either. Aside from a few instances of inspired physical comedy – a typically hapless Brad unwittingly chewing up many reels of Christmas lights with a snowblower is modestly funny – Anders and co-writer John Morris leave their four leading men to limp their way through one hundred minutes of listless, episodic slapstick punctuated by a soul-crushing cover of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”

The handful of punchy laughs that salvaged the last go-round have melted to cruel, icy gags here, with gags like kids getting drunk on Eggnog and jokes about incest sure to make every viewer uncomfortable at one point or another. Whereas Anders walked a fine line of age appropriateness last time, here he thinks he’s sharpening his edge only to dull it to a broadsword. It’s reminiscent of the kind of rapid-fire anti-comedy he perfected in the dire “Horrible Bosses 2.”

More in line with recent Ferrell debacles like “Get Hard” and “The House” than its predecessor, “Daddy’s Home 2” comes dangerously close to teetering into the Adam Sandler family film basement. Re-watch “Daddy’s Home” or don’t. But be sure to stay away from its fetid follow-up.

-J. Olson

Rating: ★ 1/2 out of ★★★★★ (Bad)

Release Date: November 10, 2017
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Director: Sean Anders
Screenwriters: Sean Anders, John Morris
Starring: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Linda Cardellini, John Lithgow, Mel Gibson, Owen Vaccaro, Scarlett Estevez, John Cena
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for suggestive material and some language)