Marking the third time Sean Anders has produced an inferior sequel to a dreadful first outing, Daddy’s Home 2 (styled: Two) takes the petty comedy of its predecessor and ramps up the mean spirit. By the time the schmalzy Christmas singalong had plonked itself ungraciously on the end, I was thoroughly under the impression that I’d been too harsh on A Bad Moms Christmas.
Much like Daddy’s Home itself, the main issue with this sequel is less that any of the humour is actively crude and more that it is all just so infuriatingly boring. Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg return as ‘co-dads’ to the Whitaker family, Brad and Dusty (one dull, one rusty). This time, they’re joined for the festive season by their own fathers Don and Kurt, played by John Lithgow and Mel Gibson respectively, who just happen to arrive on the same day, at the same airport, and within minutes of each other.
In the two years the last film, Brad and Dusty have set their differences aside to ‘make it about the kids’, the former still whimpering through life and the latter going domestic, still living with his supermodel wife (literally, she’s played by Alessandra Ambrosio) and his disinterested stepdaughter Adrianna (Didi Costine). You may, or may not (more likely), remember that Adrianna’s biological father is WWE-star John Cena’s Roger, after a cameo at the end of film one. Naturally, whilst Brad’s father is as camp as Christmas, but wearing a smile that doesn’t quite stretch from ear to ear, Gibson’s Kurt rocks up as devil’s advocate, ashamed that his son’s going soft and determined to split up the co-dadding. All the while, an excellent Linda Cardellini remains wasted on the sidelines.
The few gags that do land, again like the first film, all come in the set up and before the bickering – who knows, perhaps there’s comic potential is dual-father parenting? Here not being the place to find out, the film swiftly progresses to the type of nasty slapstick in which characters are ritually humiliated, endure electrocution and get hit repeatedly in the face by icy snowballs, whilst their friends, families and completely strangers laugh at their misfortune. A nine-year-old shoots her grandfather in the arm by accident and then turns to slaughter two nearby turkeys, whilst her brother throws a strop in a bowling alley.
Indeed, scene after scene sees these deeply unlikable individuals placed in public spaces to squabble and attract the attention of bating crowds. It’s particularly painful because of the unavoidable feeling that these actors can do better. Why Ferrell insists on pinging from dud to dud is anyone’s guess.
To make things that little bit more unbearable, as so common in brash American comedy, everyone on screen has money to burn. Most of the film takes place in a giant, extraordinarily expensive, holiday lodge that Kurt randomly books for the family, there and then on the 20 December (yep), whilst a $20k Christmas tree later is batted of as an inconvenience, rather than grossly extortionate.
The icing on the no-expenses-spared cake comes with a running subplot concerning Band Aid’s perennial charity single. So out of touch is Daddy’s Home 2 that it cannot see the problem with ending on an almost entirely white, middle-class, American cast singing Do They Know It’s Christmas in a cinema multiplex, as cashiers dish out free sweets and chocolate to anyone and everyone. Watch out for Cena joyfully weeping that he knows where it’s not going to snow at Christmas, followed by two siblings cheerfully singing about the ‘bitter sting of tears’ and Wahlberg realising his life long dream of belting out Bono’s bit.
There’s an audience out there that are going to switch off, lap up and enjoy this and that’s fine. There’s no judgement for having different tastes in film and humour; so, let them have their fun, but tonight thank God it’s them, instead of me.