Daddy’s Home 2
|Title||Daddy’s Home 2|
|Writer(s)||Sean Anders, Brian Burns|
|Release Date||November 10, 2017|
I’ll get to that in a moment. First, though, an intermission.
Hollywood movies are made by and star some of the worst people in the world. The culture of filmmaking has exploited and ruined many who didn’t deserve it, and elevated into positions of influence many people who did. This is not a secret.
Mel Gibson doesn’t strike me as a particularly nice person. I have no desire to be his mate, and certainly not to have a drink with him. He has said and done some awful things. He has made some awful films – including Daddy’s Home 2, as it happens. But the expectation among certain critical communities is to boycott his films solely on that basis. What he has done is unforgivable, they say. He shouldn’t be rewarded, financially or otherwise, after having done those unforgivable things. And to allow his films, those that he has made or starred in, to exist without ferocious condemnation, is a failure of critics. It is wilful ignorance, stupidity and complicity. We, as critics, should know better.
And do you know better?
This is, in a word, horseshit. It’s patronising holier-than-thou nonsense designed to shame and vilify people with different ways of looking at art, artists, and the world. To watch a film in which Mel Gibson stars and critique it on its own merits is not an endorsement of everything Mel Gibson has ever done. Nor should it be. A person who enjoys a Mel Gibson film irrespective of his past behaviour, who chooses to separate art from artist, does not inherit Gibson’s transgressions. It is profoundly idiotic to think so.
Gibson is an easy target for moral outrage. He’s straight, white, male, and his work is often violent and traditionally masculine. It should be acknowledged more, though, that were these critics so determined to ignore and undermine any work which had involved someone who had ever said or done something distasteful, there would likely be nothing left for them to critique.
Daddy’s Home 2 then…
Oh, it’s rubbish. And it’s largely rubbish thanks to an overreliance on easy humour, recycled bits from the first film, and, it must be said, lazy and reductionist ideas about masculinity and relationships. I didn’t find this offensive, mind, and neither should you. But it’s certainly dumb, and sometimes that’s the same thing.
Didn’t you like the first film?
I did. It was a serviceable comedy with a funny and likeable central dynamic between the highly-strung whimsy of Will Ferrell’s mild-mannered step-dad, Brad, and Mark Wahlberg’s charismatic alpha male biological dad, Dusty. This follow-up finds the pair no longer rivals, but chummy “co-dads”. They share custody of Dusty’s children, and Dusty has his own issues with his new wife, Karen (Alessandra Ambrosio), her daughter, Adrianna (Didi Costine), and her uber-alpha ex, Roger (John Cena).
Like any studio-mandated sequel, this one tries to up the ante by padding out the cast with more names. John Lithgow plays Don, Brad’s father, and Mel Gibson plays Kurt, Dusty’s father, both of whom have come to visit for Christmas.
That sounds familiar.
Yeah, it’s the exact same setup as A Bad Moms Christmas, which was another inferior sequel that traded on a lazy seasonal association to wring a few more quid from unsuspecting audiences. In that film, the mothers of each of the main characters had a single, specific neurosis. In Daddy’s Home 2, the new dads are just exaggerated versions of the old ones. Lithgow’s Don is a huge softy; he greets Brad at the airport by planting kisses on his lips and squeezing him like a child might a cuddly toy. Gibson’s Kurt, true to type, is a one-dimensional, brutish man-child, a former astronaut who has no time for soft **** like sensitivity and affection.
Just like the first film.
In some ways, yeah. Lithgow especially fits right in. His trademark brand of non-threatening masculinity is always a laugh, and he’s well-cast against Ferrell. All the movie’s attempts at pathos are filtered through him. He’s struggling with the collapse of his long-time marriage; how to adapt his buttoned-up personality as the normalcy of his life crumbles around him. He’s all about staying true to oneself, even if you’re a bit of an oddball.
Gibson doesn’t fare as well – and no, it’s not simply because he’s Mel Gibson. The issues are in how his character is written and directed. The problem with these kinds of arch stereotypes is that there’s only so far you can take them before they become grating.
In the last film, Wahlberg pushed the alpha-male as far as it would go. He tempered the chest-puffing with enough charisma to be likeable, and enough emotion for a character arc. No such luck with Gibson. He has to take macho posturing even further, with no charisma or emotion whatsoever. It’d work, maybe, if it was intended as a joke – a pointed finger at his scandal-strewn past, or a subversion of his masculine overkill mode. But the film often makes Gibson the straight man, and sometimes even the audience surrogate; a bemused onlooker, rolling his eyes and cackling at the various indignities Lithgow and Ferrell are made to suffer.
Is Daddy’s Home 2 funny, at least?
Rarely. It’s joylessly mining the same barren quarry as last time, only with less charm, and less novelty in the alpha-beta dichotomy. When it occasionally finds a relatable target – dads are really sensitive about the thermostat temperature – you can just feel how pleased the writers were with themselves. And that’s off-putting. But not more so than bizarre and tone-deaf jokes about sexual abuse and children handling firearms, which, in the current climate, seem spectacularly misguided. Offensive? No, not really. But, again, dumb.
Surely Daddy’s Home 2 is Christmassy?
You can expect a light dusting of standard-issue festive miracles, some of them intertwined with perfunctory subplots that we’d otherwise forget about or fail to notice. And of course there’s a song and dance number at the end. But the seasonal sprinklings are mainly used to leverage character moments that feel horribly unearned. You’re probably not going to like this more just because some scenes have a Christmas tree in the background, and that’s all the holiday theme really amounts to.
Do yourself a favour this Christmas: Skip Daddy’s Home 2.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.