The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Daddy's Home 2

Daddy's Home 2 is the kind of movie that makes you ask yourself, How did this get made? The answer, of course, is money. The original was a surprise Christmastime hit two years ago, so the makers clearly felt they could return to the well once more. And that's fine. We get unnecessary sequels all the time. What makes this follow-up different is that, in addition to overall lack of quality, it capitalizes on the bad reputation of one of its stars, thereby adding a queasy factor to what's supposed to be a lighthearted story.

As the movie opens, Brad (Will Ferrell) and Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) are successfully cooperating as “co-dads.” They get along just fine. Then their respective fathers show up to help celebrate Christmas. Brad's dad, Don (John Lithgow), is relentlessly chipper, but also hiding a secret. Dusty's dad, Kurt (Mel Gibson), is a womanizing he-man who lives to criticize others. The whole brood, including Brad's wife/Dusty's ex-wife Sara (Linda Cardellini), treks to a luxurious mountain cabin for the holiday, only to have all sorts of complications between the men spring up.

The original Daddy's Home was a muddled mix of heartwarming family themes and slapstick comedy. It could never quite reconcile the two. Daddy's Home 2 is even worse on that count. On one hand, it wants to say something about often-turbulent father/son dynamics. On the other, it's filled with absurd sequences of broad physical humor that undercut the attempts at thoughtfulness. So exaggerated are those scenes that laughing at them is difficult; they seem too far removed from reality. Perhaps the worst of them has Brad accidentally turning a snowblower into a virtual machine gun before sending it aloft.

Because the slapstick is way off the mark, the examination of the relationships between these men rings hollow. Not that there was much substance to begin with. Daddy's Home 2 has all the depth of a greeting card. Did you know that some fathers have trouble saying “I love you” to their sons? Or that some sons develop issues because they perpetually seek approval from the fathers who never give it?

By far, the biggest misstep the film makes is in casting Mel Gibson. Maybe you can separate his work onscreen from his personal baggage, but I no longer can. At least not in a family-oriented movie. This is a frivolous holiday comedy, yet right in the middle of it is a man who has made vile racist and anti-Semitic remarks, said vulgar things to a female police officer, and once badly beat his girlfriend, leaving her with a concussion and busted teeth. Daddy's Home 2 asks us to laugh at his antics.

That alone would be bad enough. However, the screenplay – by John Morris and director Sean Anders – intentionally casts him as a down-and-dirty character. One scene has Kurt giving a young boy romantic advice, telling him to grab the girl he likes, force a kiss upon her, then smack her on the backside. That's just one example. Daddy's Home 2 practically begs us to think of Gibson's misdeeds while we watch – an uncomfortable proposition, at best. The movie would not have been substantially better with a different actor in the role, thanks to sloppy material. It would have been less objectionable, though.

There are some scattered laughs to be found, the majority of them from Will Ferrell. He gets the last line, which is admittedly pretty clever, coming as it does after one of the most unexpected cameos you're likely to see. Daddy's Home 2 could have used a lot more of that cleverness. It's a lazy, uninspired sequel that, thanks to Gibson's participation, leaves a sour taste in one's mouth.

( 1/2 out of four)

Daddy's Home 2 is rated PG-13 for suggestive material and some language. The running time is 1 hour and 40 minutes.

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