You can see the thought process behind this sequel to the 2015 comedy Daddy’s Home. Similarly to Meet the Fockers – there’s an opportunity here to hire two older, celebrated actors and let them ham it up to their heart’s content, as in this instance the original parents of the initial endeavour now become the offspring. It’s no doubt an entertaining premise, it’s more the execution here that’s in question.
Having once been the best of enemies, Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) and Brad (Will Ferrell) are now the very best of friends, coming to an amicable agreement where they raise the former’s kids as co-Dads, since Brad is now married to Dusty’s ex-wife Sara (Linda Cardellini). Though with Christmas approaching, the kids are dismayed by the fact they’ll have to choose between either spending the special day with their real dad, or their step-dad – and so Dusty and Brad come up with the plan of all spending Christmas together – though one thing they couldn’t have accounted for, is that their own fathers were going to be joining them. Dusty’s hotheaded dad Kurt (Mel Gibson) seems hellbent on recreating the friction between his son and Brad, while the latter’s father (John Lithgow) is more concerned with keeping himself amused through banal, overly enthusiastic conversation. As the old saying goes, like father like son.
Unfortunately, this Sean Anders production just feels a little too safe in parts, with a somewhat juvenile, accessible approach to comedy, where perhaps had it been aimed at an older demographic it may have been beneficial – not least because dealing with the in-laws is a burden only adults have to face. This is emblematic of a film that lacks good ideas, a little too reliant on comedic set pieces, with a scattergun approach to slapstick. It’s a shame this be the case, and it’s such a common theme in contemporary comedy, to fall back on big, action-orientated moments to evoke humour, be that characters falling off the roof, or being shot by a child, whereas the best comedy so often derives from the characters, and the subtlety – of which this film has none of. It’s particularly frustrating because the characters are well-written, and perhaps had Anders had more faith in them as comedic devices, the film would’ve been a lot better off.
That being said, the absurdist approach does work well in parts – though it can be taken too far (in one scene they go to the cinema and there’s not an empty seat in the house – as if!), but as the narrative progresses this approach becomes somewhat endearing and by the close of play, with the tone established, there’s certainly a lot of fun to be had. It benefits too from coming under the umbrella of the Christmas movie genre, for while this may not be a great comedy as such, it’s a perfectly capable festive endeavour – and where that sub-genre is concerned, there’s a lot less competition, so has a much better chance of standing out.
Daddy’s Home 2 is released on November 22nd.