At one point in the wholly unnecessary Daddy’s Home 2, the entire extended family lands at the local cineplex at Christmas and checks out a new Liam Neeson movie—a holiday-themed action flick called Missile Tow. Not for nothing, but when you’re sitting in a theater, and the fake movie-within-a-movie looks like it would be more fun that the one you’ve actually paid money to see…well, that feels about as good as sitting down to an under-cooked apple pie or a dry turkey.
Since the original Daddy’s Home made close to $250 million worldwide, a sequel was never in doubt (which is also what justified the equally misguided A Bad Moms Christmas), so here we are, returning to the world of manly-man dad Dusty (Mark Wahlberg), white-bread step-dad Brad (Will Ferrell), and the family they now share.
The 2015 film was fine but forgettable, offering up a handful of legitimate chuckles alongside too many cringe-inducing groaners and flat-out clunkers. The sequel is less fine and just as forgettable. It fails miserably at its transparent quest to become this generation’s Christmas Vacation, as the gang retreats to a mountain cabin for a week of oh-so-zany escapades.
The gimmick this go-round is that the granddads have come the holidays; Mel Gibson is Dusty’s “El Padre” Kurt, a skeevy womanizer who used to pilot the Space Shuttle and is now intent on getting his grandson his first shotgun. John Lithgow is Brad’s chatty-Cathy, overly affectionate dad Don, who makes Mister Rogers look like a tough from the wrong side of the tracks. Smells like a lazy prescription for conflict to me, boys and girls.
And that’s exactly how Daddy’s Home 2 plays out—as a series of goofy, oil-and-water vignettes with Kurt being tough and insufferable while Don is milquetoast and insufferable. All the while, Dusty and Brad are stuck standing between them with nothing to do but stoop to the level of the guy who discovers that the cabin’s shower is voice-activated but who can’t stop shouting things like “cold!” and “water!”.
That’s just one of the non-stop series of quick-hit bits that make up the bulk of Daddy’s Home 2. Need more? How about when Dusty doesn’t put Brad’s suitcase in the car for the road trip, and then Brad spends less than a minute wondering where it is when they get there. After Brad wears his wife’s too-small robe for a scene (because none of the three grown men in the cabin had clothes he could borrow?), the whole thing is dropped; Brad spends the rest of the movie remarkably dressed.
It’s obvious that screenwriters Sean Anders (who also directed) and John Morris made a quick list of moments they thought were funny (Snowblower sucks up Christmas lights! Little kids get drunk on egg nog! Kurt tries to tell his grandchildren a joke about two dead hookers!), but without a cohesive arc holding anything together, Daddy’s Home 2 ends up feeling like a poorly-written sitcom; all that’s missing is the laugh track. Heck, even the requisite sappy ending with everybody coming together to the tune of a classic Christmas song can’t save the day.
Now, if somebody could get on the phone with Neeson about that Missile Tow idea, we might be onto something.