By Liam Lacey
There's one bizarrely meta-movie sequence in the comedy Daddy's Home 2 when the sprawling cast of squabbling in-laws, separated parents and children converge, during a snowstorm on Christmas Day, at a movie theatre.
Will Ferrell, gentle dope of a stepdad, interrupts a potential donnybrook by declaring that a movie theatre is the perfect setting to enjoy the true meaning of Christmas: snacks, family, fun. More than a comedy, Daddy’s Home 2 is a public service announcement for supporting your local cinema. Tellingly, one bratty adolescent girl, Adriana (Didi Costine) spends most of the time on her smartphone, no doubt watching one of those streaming services that are making theatres expendable.
As the title indicates, Daddy's Home 2 is a sequel to Daddy's Home (2015), which established Ferrell as the sensitive stepdad Brad, married to Linda Cardellini with Mark Wahlberg as Dusty, her macho former husband and biological dad of two kids, precocious Megan and shy Dylan.
As we start the new movie, Brad and Dusty have worked things out and have agreed to have a blended Christmas. Then their two dads, Mr. Whitaker (John Lithgow) and Kurt (Mel Gibson) enter the picture. Kurt, a former astronaut, deadbeat father, and womanizer, decides they should all stay in a chalet for the Christmas week.
True to the movie's group-entertainment mission, the humour is strictly common-denominator: slapstick accidents, macho men kissing, drunken children, awkward urinal conversations, and a gross overuse of the 1984 Ethiopian famine relief song, “Do They Know It's Christmas?”
But the comic bits come so quickly that, even with a weak hit-to-miss ratio, Daddy’s Home 2 is funny in spots. There's a well-done domino-chain of accidents involving a sleigh on a roof, for example. Ferrell and Wahlberg have a good back-and-forth rhythm and Lithgow, as Brad's dad, is a pillowy bundle of silliness.
On the other side, Gibson — playing an angry jerk who discovers his gentler side — just stays disturbing. And, snowflake that I am, I don’t get how a schtick about a child wounding someone with a gun is considered a hilarious idea right now, or perhaps ever, and especially in a Christmas family movie.
Daddy's Home 2. Directed by Sean Anders. Written by Anders and John Morris. Starring Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, John Lithgow, Mel Gibson, Linda Cardellini, Alessandra Ambrosio, Owen Vaccaro and Scarlett Estevez. Opens wide November 10.