Film Review: Daddy's Home 2

Follow-up to 'Daddy’s Home' is "so good."
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Sitting next to me at a recent screening of Daddy’s Home 2 was an eighth-grader and precocious critic who announced to his companion before the film began that he was planning to post his review of this follow-up to the 2015 comedic hit Daddy’s Home to a teen website (after the embargo against reviews had been lifted, of course). He watched the film with notebook in lap, and after the credits had rolled for 30 seconds or so, sat up, addressed the adult by his side, and pronounced judgment: “Sooo good! [Pause for a moment’s reflection.] Sooo good!”

Some of us might choose to excise several “o’s” from those “so’s,” but otherwise, the kid’s all right. Daddy’s Home 2 is as advertised—that is, a fun family comedy for the holidays. Writer-director Sean Anders and his co-writer John Morris (Brian Burns of “Entourage” created the characters) opt for a bigger-is-better approach that cleanly rebukes those of us inclined to roll our eyes at such an equation—or at the word “sequel” at all. The laughs are a nice mix of silly and suggestive and surround that live beating heart that can be found at the center of most Will Ferrell comedies. Kinda treacly? You betcha. Smooth all the way down? Even so.

Brad (Ferrell) is the sensitive stepfather to the two children of former tough-guy Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) and Dusty’s ex, Sarah (Linda Cardellini). Dusty is a new stepfather himself, to the tween phone addict Adrianna (Didi Costine), who is the daughter of his gorgeous and talented author wife, Karen (real-life model Alessandra Ambrosio). Adrianna’s dad and Karen’s ex Roger (John Cena) briefly shows up, too, in his guise as a dude even more macho than Dusty. You got all that?

Certainly it’s a lot to keep up with, even for the children of this blended family. After little Megan (Scarlett Estevez) publicly complains about splitting Christmas Day between her two families, Brad and Dusty decide to spend the holiday as an ensemble. You see, the two men have overcome the animosity that drove them to such comedic lengths in Daddy’s Home, and are now progressive “co-dads.” But resentments are percolating beneath the surface and soon come to a boil with the arrival of the granddads.

Brad’s dad Don, or “Grandpop” (John Lithgow), and Dusty’s dad Kurt, or “El Padre” (Mel Gibson), are their sons in caricature: Don’s so touchy-feely he greets his boy with a kiss on the lips (no peck or smack, this) and Kurt’s so alpha the barest mention of feelings or compromise elicits a scoff to shame the most disinterested adolescent girl. In fact, Kurt’s horror at the “weakness” his son is exhibiting in co-dadding with Brad manifests in something of a personal mission to tear the bros apart. Forget Scrooge; he’s the Iago of Christmas.

Anders has said that the “humor and conflict” in his film “come from a very relatable, grounded place,” and this isn’t so much jargon. Silly details like the dad who will talk to any stranger, no matter the person’s willingness, and the battle over the thermostat make for funny moments in the “Seinfeld” school of finding humor in the mundane. It’s also worth noting that nearly every character has his or her say, including the wives outside of the film’s central premise and the children that provide its plot mechanism (“Let’s do all of these ridiculous things for the kids”). Ambrosio has the least to do, but the gag that sees her scribbling in a writer’s notebook while Sarah freaks out about just what is being written about her, is repeated enough to keep her in the picture and part of the comedic air. A bit involving Sarah, her wonderfully insane daughter Megan, and a gun for Christmas does gender-subversion with unforced effectiveness. 

Ultimately, though Brad & Dusty and Don & Kurt (or Brad & Don and Dusty & Kurt) are the focus of the film, Daddy’s Home 2 winds up feeling like an even larger ensemble comedy. And even when it goes in for the feel-good Christmas ending, it never takes itself too seriously. All of which is, indeed, so good.

Click here for cast and crew information.