“Daddy’s Home” was one of the worst movies of 2015. I took two hours out of my Christmas Day to cringe through an obnoxious feud between a doting stepdad (Will Ferrell) and an underactive biological father (Mark Wahlberg) over the love of their shared kids. Because that movie had a cushy holiday opening, it made enough money to warrant a sequel. “Daddy’s Home 2” is somehow even worse, making me appreciate the few things the original did right that this one lacks. As it stands, this movie is a Madea Halloween away from being the worst movie of 2017.
Just a quick recap on the families: Brad (Ferrell) and Sarah (Linda Cardellini) have one son of their own, and Brad is stepdad to Sarah’s son and daughter that she had with Dusty (Wahlberg). Dusty is stepdad to a girl that his new wife Karen (Alessandra Ambrosio) had with Roger (John Cena). Four kids, five parents, and for this movie we’re adding two grandparents. John Lithgow is Brad’s dorky dad Don and Mel Gibson is Dusty’s estranged father Kurt. Since the movie promises to be about daddies, the majority of the screen time goes to Brad, Dusty, Don, and Kurt.
In short, Kurt gets the feud between Brad and Dusty going again. He thinks that the best way to solve any conflict is to fight, so he serves as an instigator at every opportunity. He likes to get the two arguing, and then saying “Are you going to take that?” He also thinks they’re too soft in their approach to parenting, and that Dusty especially needs to be more hard-nosed. He wants his grandkids hunting turkeys, bowling without bumpers, and approaching crushes in a way that constitutes sexual harassment. Brad and Dusty think he needs to start living in the 21st century, but they also feel a need to impress him. Another round of one-upsmanship ensues, with Kurt’s respect on the line as well as the kids’. Eventually a lesson is learned about how they’re all being stupid and the important thing is that they function as a cohesive family unit.
The movie is consistently painful, especially when Ferrell’s brand of comedy is involved. Brad can’t do anything right, both in terms of being a klutz and being a bad parent. The klutz part hasn’t changed much from the first movie, this time sees him get whacked in the face by a tetherball, violently crash a snow tube, get Christmas lights caught in a snowblower, chop down a “Christmas tree” so that it crushes Dusty’s car, and other tired pratfalls every other minute. The bad parenting is one of those things that’s worse here than in the first movie. Brad previously had a responsibility to him that somewhat balanced out Dusty’s style-without-substance. Here, everything he does is wrong, from dating advice to fighting in public to cheaply dragging Roger into the family conflict so Dusty will be unnerved. Actually, none of the father figures in this movie are very good at parenting, maybe the idea is that the five need to work together to bring out the one good parent they have between them? If that is the case, then the math is off, because with these characters, there’s maybe a third of a good parent between them.
“Daddy’s Home 2” is an ugly movie about people who need a serious lesson in maturity. Even more than the characters, the film itself needs to grow up, given the reliance on lowbrow humor. This is a movie that loves its “family members kissing on the mouth” gags, not to mention the characters’ overall inability to behave like they’ve been trained to function in polite society. I was prepared for an annoying experience, and this movie managed to sink even lower than my expectations. Be a good Daddy or Mommy and take the family to see something better.
“Daddy’s Home 2” is rated PG-13 for suggestive material and some language. Its running time is 100 minutes.
Robert R. Garver is a graduate of the Cinema Studies program at New York University. His weekly movie reviews have been published since 2006.