Director: Sean Anders
Cast: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Mel Gibson, John Lithgow
2017 has been a pretty bad time in general, but for Hollywood finance the whole year has been about really bad timing (leaving aside the much-needed exposure of sexual predators of course). Right on the heels of the Harvey Weinstein revelations came the allegations against Kevin Spacey, putting a complete kibosh on many, many lucrative projects. The news of Louis CK's alleged peccadilloes came out right before the release of the comedian's, now, cringe-inducing I Love You, Daddy, which has since been scrapped. And now again, just as Time Magazine declared the #MeToo movement -- started by victims of sexual abuse the world over – as the Person of the Year, Daddy’s Home 2 releases in theaters.
This movie, advertised as family-friendly fare releasing just in time for the Holidays, stars anti-Semitic misogynist Mel Gibson and Mark Wahlberg, who has been previously convicted of racially-motivated assault aka permanently blinding a person of color. Sure, it’s the season of forgiving and all that, but the Christmas-marketed movie’s climax involves an incest-themed subplot, and a prepubescents’ non-consensual kissing being rewarded by/devolving into an orgy of preteens making out to the enthusiastic cheering of their parents. What the hell is going on, Hollywood? Have we seriously learned nothing this year?
Ok, the film also stars Will Ferrell and John Lithgow, who seem truly sweet men in both real and reel life, but all that sugar and marshmallows can’t mask the boozy bitterness of alcohol that rests at the base of this hot chocolate of a film. Because, seriously, how is it kosher – to employ a word Gibson presumably loathes – that he be in a family-oriented film? Yes, Hollywood’s penchant for awarding Oscars to child rapists has been previously established (indeed we should be grateful that the Academy didn’t send a 13-year-old to personally present Roman Polanski with his Best Director trophy), but aren’t we supposed to be more woke in 2017?
Anyway, before this becomes a diatribe against Hollywood’s casting clout – too late – let’s talk about the actual movie in question. A sequel to the box-office success of Daddy’s Home, which exploited the obvious screen chemistry between Ferrell and Wahlberg (the pair's previous outing together, The Other Guys, WAS actually comic gold) and where the two play Brad and Dusty respectively - two totally different types of fathers to their own and each other’s step-kids.
The sequel involves their own fathers coming for a visit for the holidays (hey remember, A Bad Moms' Christmas?), with tough guy Dusty’s father being an even tougher guy and sweetheart Brad’s father being even more saccharine. No prizes for guessing which character is played by Lithgow and which by Gibson. Obviously, there’s resentment and ill-feeling, both evident and repressed, being harbored by all the fathers, with that exact phrase, “the harboring of resentment”, being a stumbling, er, running joke throughout the film. Do you really need to know how the rest of it pans out?
The two adult women characters aren’t even two-dimensional, with Dusty’s Karen (Alessandra Ambrosio) as ornamental as a Christmas ornament, and Brad’s Sara (Linda Cardellini), the overworked mother who, when not being intimidated by Karen, ends up being the only one doing the decorating. The kids, on the other hand, are engaging, as is their wont in this genre, and alarmingly precocious, what with the heavy drinking, gun violence, animal slaughter and previously mentioned incest and ignorance about consent.
There are some laughs, especially courtesy Ferrell with Lithgow and Ferrell with Wahlberg, while Gibson plays the same brash alpha-male he made a career out of, but ultimately the jokes, plot lines and characters are all derivative of much better productions that lack the moral ambiguity of this particular film. There are frequent allusions to our modern obsession with technology and social media, a la Black Mirror, and the usual product placement of gifting ideas that punctuate films that release this time of the year.
Rating – 2/5