Christmas Dad-o-Rama

Wahlberg & Farrell double down on the doofus dad jokes in sequel

DADDY'S HOME 2

Daddy’s Home 2
Starring Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Mel Gibson & John Lithgow
Directed by Sean Anders
PG-13

If two feuding fathers are funny, four’s gotta be even funnier…right?

That’s the movie math behind the holiday hijinks of this sequel to the 2015 comedy, which starred Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg as a stepfather and a biological dad battling for the attention of their kids.

At the end of the first movie, sweet, sensitive Brad (Ferrell) had rubbed off some of the rough, raw edges of brusque, macho Dusty (Wahlberg) and they had made their peace with each other as “co-dads.” Daddy’s Home 2 opens with a warm, fuzzy scene of the two of them sharing carpooling duties, happily swapping off their kids at the park and chatting about the school’s upcoming Christmas pageant.

Ah, Christmas!

The kids, it seems, love all the presents they get from two sets of parents. But they’re not so happy about being so split apart, shuttled between homes and houses, at the one time of year when families are supposed to be together. So Brad and Rusty come up with an idea: one big “together Christmas” with all the kids and all the parents and stepparents in one house, at one time!

Brilliant! Then both Dusty’s dad and Brad’s dad (Mel Gibson and John Lithgow) show up for last-minute Christmas visits, which really makes it a together Christmas—and kick the movie into high comedy gear.

DADDY'S HOME 2

John Lithgow plays Don, the father of Brad (Will Ferrell).

Both old pros, Gibson—famed for starring in the original Mad Max franchise, three Lethal Weapon flicks, The Patriot and Braveheart, and for his directing as well—and Lithgow—whose 100-plus acting credits include the acclaimed current Netflix series The Crown, in which he stars as Winston Churchill—are hoots and almost steal the show from the top-billed franchise stars. Gibson’s character, Kurt, is an old-school, sarcastic, alpha-male-bulldog Lothario, a former astronaut who tries to warm up to his grandkids with a joke about dead hookers. And you can certainly see where Brad got all his warmth and thoughtfulness: Don (Lithgow) is yappy, ever-happy optimistic, super-sentimental, always ready with hugs, kisses, corny jokes and a pocket full of homemade cookies.

DADDY'S HOME 2

Scarlett Estevez, Owen Vacarro and Didi Costine

This holiday cocktail of a mismatched family—as dads, stepdads, granddads and step-granddads all learn to get along—also features kids from the first film. Young Scarlett Estevez, Owen Vacarro and Didi Costine have their own little step-sib subplot that involves young love, getting into forbidden eggnog and switching up traditional gender roles.

Writer-director Sean Anders also directed the first film (along with Horrible Bosses 2) and wrote screenplays for We’re The Millers, Hot Tub Time Machine, Dumb and Dumber To and Mr. Popper’s Penguins. He knows funny, and Daddy’s Home 2 has a lot of it. An inventive sequence with a snow blower and Christmas lights ends with a comedic thud that will have a familiar ring to anyone who saw the first movie. Appropriately enough for a comedy about dads jockeying for attention, position and pecking order, a scene with the whole “together” family in a live-nativity manager riffs on who’s going to play Joseph, and how he wasn’t Jesus’ real father.

DADDY'S HOME 2

John Cena

John Cena, who made a surprise appearance at the end of the original film, makes a reappearance as Randy, another stepdad—the uber-cool, muscle-bound, truck-driving hunk Randy. And stay until the very end for another surprise stepdad!

There’s also some commentary about learning to compromise, a surprising venture into gun control and a poignant scene—in a comedy club—in which we find out something heavy, and heartbreaking, about Brad’s dad. And there’s a running joke, with a funny flashback, to the 1984 Band Aid song “Do They Know It’s Christmas” and its all-star cast of international singers, each getting a line.

The wives/moms, Linda Cardellini (of TV’s Bloodline) and Brazilian-born former Victoria’s Secret model Alessandra Ambrosio, don’t really have much to do, except look pretty and deliver an occasional quip—and Ambrosio doesn’t even get many of those. The movie is just too crowded with guys and cute kids.

And in a bit of a Hollywood in-joke, everyone ends up snowstorm-stranded in a movie theater. The big holiday release is an action-family holiday hybrid about Liam Neeson and a bunch of adorable kids traveling with a nuclear warhead cross-country to keep it out of the hands of terrorists. It’s called Missile Tow.

After strings of edgier, R-rated fare for both Ferrell and Wahlberg, the Daddy’s Home flicks let both actors settle into a more-or-less family-friendly, PG-13 groove, and still find a very festive comedic mojo.

This cheery, comical, dads-travaganza of a Christmas carol won’t win any major holiday awards. But it will certainly keep Scrooge at bay—at least until those Christmas bills start to roll in! Then you’ll know it’s Christmas, for sure.

In theaters Nov. 10, 2017

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