Christmas is the time of year when craptacular yuletide entertainment like “Daddy’s Home 2” is forced upon the moviegoing public, slung like a bucket of slop into your local cineplex by money-hungry studio suits. Think of it as the cinematic version of a lump of coal in your stocking.
This unnecessary, formulaic sack of disappointment has few laughs, is excessively mean-spirited, and has repeated disturbing, tone-deaf attempts to make comedy out of generally unpleasant situations like teaching a young boy how to grope women, joking about dead hookers, laughing at 10 year olds getting drunk off spiked eggnog, and giving a little girl a hunting rifle on a dare.
The film is barely 90 minutes long yet when it’s over, you’ll feel as though you just spent three weeks in a secluded cabin with your red state cousin who wears a ‘Country Thunder’ t-shirt and rants about his ideas to make ‘Murica great again.
Formerly dueling co-dads Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) and Brad (Will Ferrell) are back, and this time they join forces so their kids can have — wait for it — the perfect Christmas! As is the norm with most Hollywood sequels, the film tries to make things interesting by parading out — wait for it again — the men’s own daddies! Dusty’s dad Kurt (Mel Gibson) is a macho misogynist while Brad’s dad Don (John Lithgow) is overly emotional and slightly goofy. Can you believe the night and day difference in the two dads? I know I can’t!
Of course the dream of snowflakes and candy canes is swiftly ruined by the complete and utter idiocy of slapstick antics like characters falling down, getting hit in the face, getting hit in the groin, falling down, getting hit in the face, falling down, getting electrocuted, getting hit in the ear, falling down, getting hit in the head, falling down, falling down again, and getting punched in the stomach. We don’t need no stinking script, it’s like the movie writes itself!
There are a couple of decent jokes sprinkled around that miraculously don’t land with a thud (including a pretty fantastic one-liner about divorce and improv), but it’s mostly dumb and nonsensical pratfalls of the most inane variety that are played for laughs — and the laughs never come. The film is devoid of all merriment and holiday fun, and the cast (and audience) deserves far better than this overstuffed turkey of a movie.
“Daddy’s Home 2” is a movie designed for idiots. Specifically. As in laboratory-tested, focus-grouped, workshopped and engineered to appeal to the lowest common denominator.
In the very best comedies, jokes are either constructed (with the film carefully laying the foundation that leads to the payoff) or they’re experiential (relying on the audience’s outside knowledge about the world). In movies like “Daddy’s Home 2,” you get neither. Instead, a joke is someone getting hit in the face with a dodgeball. Or a snowball. Or a tree. Or a kid on a swing. Or Christmas decorations. For movies like this one, the film treats it as the absolute height of hilarity for a person to get hit with something or fall down. “OH!” or “OUCH!,” the audience exclaims. And sitting among them, I feel my hope for the future of humanity quickly draining away. This is “Ow My Balls!” as blockbuster entertainment.
All of that being said, the movie’s not unwatchable. Maybe it’s because I found myself being so amused at how effectively this laugh-cue extravaganza appeared to work on my fellow audience members. Maybe it’s because Mark Wahlberg, Will Ferrell, and Mel Gibson are still eminently watchable, even in a poor excuse for a comedy like this one. Or maybe it’S because the movie tries so shamelessly to ingratiate itself to the public as a classic Christmas movie like “Christmas Vacation,” “Elf,” or “Surviving Christmas” (Louisa and I continue our quest to single-handedly make “Surviving Christmas” a beloved holiday movie). It’s probably all of these things.