Daddy’s Home 2 reunites us with Will Ferrell’s Brad and Mark Wahlberg’s Dusty, a classic odd couple who were thrust together as “co-fathers” when Brad entered into a relationship with Dusty’s ex-wife Sara (Linda Cardellini). In the time since the first film, the two have blossomed into friends and have found a routine that seems to be going well for the most part. In an effort to try and give the kids a greater sense of stability, Brad and Dusty decide to have a combined Christmas rather than bouncing the kids around, but their newfound equilibrium is challenged when their respective fathers Don (John Lithgow) and Kurt (Mel Gibson) decide to tag along.
While it is a pretty obvious gimmick, introducing their fathers as two exaggerated versions of Brad and Dusty in order to challenge the status quo feels like a logical road for the sequel to go down. While Brad is already a prize specimen of obnoxious, buttoned-up white neurosis (so– Will Ferrell, basically), Don is so softhearted and grossly affectionate that you’d feel like you want to punch him were it not for the fact he’d probably apologise to you afterward. Likewise for Dusty’s devil-may-care demeanour, which in Kurt translates to an unapologetic womaniser and absentee father.
What works well about this setup is that it allows a continuation of the conflict of the first film, without it necessarily feeling like it’s rehashing the same jokes or undoing any of the previous character development. While Lithgow or Gibson don’t always hold their own against Farrell and Wahlberg (who have already shown they have some great chemistry with each other), neither is a stranger to comedy and they do well to fan the flames of their sons’ insecurities. Sadly, they both fare less well whenever Daddy’s Home 2 calls on them for more personal or emotional moments, though this is perhaps more down to the haphazard dialogue they are saddled with than it is a reflection of the actors.
Luckily, the stars of the show are much more consistent in their performances, with both providing some genuinely funny (though familiar) comedy. Despite their popularity, both Farrell and Wahlberg can be polarising for some viewers, so ultimately you’re mileage (and patience) is going to vary depending on how much their style appeals to your sense of humour. But if you’re a fan of either of them to any degree, Daddy’s Home 2‘s jokes are probably going to hit more than they miss.
Unfortunately, some of those misses are pretty hard to overlook. For all the comedy that works, Daddy’s Home 2 takes a lot of easy shots that can’t help but drag the movie down, and heavily in certain spots. This is made worse by how generally terrible the writing and dialogue is whenever the movie is trying to advance the plot. More often than not, whenever a character opens their mouths and isn’t trying to be funny, all that comes out is inorganic exposition on the plot, or unnecessary clarification on a gag you just saw.
It’s tempting to mark the movie down for some of the more lowbrow/slapsticky moments, but it actually turns out to be pretty successful in being a four-quadrant movie, so holding some beats meant for younger viewers against it seems a little unfair. With the heavy familial focus and the chaotic Christmas setting, Daddy’s Home 2 rubs up against classic family comedies in the vain of the National Lampoon’s Vacation movies. And thanks in large part to the festive (and surprisingly kind of sweet) climax, Daddy’s Home 2 turns out to be a surprisingly good flick to add to the family Christmas movie rotation.
Daddy’s Home 2 is far from a must-see, but despite it not being extremely original, and some lazy writing here and there, it remains an enjoyable movie and a safe bet for someone seeking some easy viewing.