The Austin Chronicle

Daddy's Home 2

Rated PG-13, 110 min. Directed by Sean Anders. Starring Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Linda Cardellini, Mel Gibson, John Lithgow, Alessandra Ambrosio, John Cena, Owen Vaccaro, Scarlett Estevez, Didi Costine.

REVIEWED By Danielle White, Fri., Nov. 10, 2017

There’s almost something political about Daddy’s Home 2. Dusty (Wahlberg) and Brad (Ferrell) have teamed up as “co-dads” in what could be viewed as a very progressive parenting situation. They share the duties of carting the kids around and baking cookies for PTA meetings. They employ cheery tones. They fist bump. There’s a sense of equality – they even drive the same type of car. To alleviate stress on the children, they decide to have “together Christmas,” which unexpectedly includes both dads’ dads (played by Gibson and Lithgow – the casting is really on point).

Dusty’s father Kurt (Gibson), a grizzled Adonis, takes issue with this “blended” family dynamic. Not only does he manage to reawaken some competitive antics between Brad and Dusty, but he imposes his “character-building” parenting techniques on one of the grandkids, Dylan (Vaccaro). Some seem harmless (taking the guardrails down at the bowling alley) and some really are not (let’s say Kurt has an approach to women that is somewhat “presidential”). When Dylan’s sister Megan (Estevez) expresses interest in going hunting with him, Kurt literally tells her a woman’s place is in the kitchen. This remark finally pushes Sara (Cardellini) into taking a break from fawning over Dusty’s new wife (Ambrosio) just long enough to assert her daughter’s independence – the only parenting she does over the course of both movies. (Though I would argue it was a personally motivated faux act of rebellion more than anything, it still counts.)

The bulk of the “comedy” hinges on how much bodily injury – as a result of decorating mishaps, snowball fights, and the like – Brad/Brad’s dad (both grandfather characters are extensions of their sons) can withstand, and this gets old quickly. With all the violence in the world lately, it seems perverse to insert so much male aggression into what is supposed to be a fun holiday movie. When Roger (Cena) roars onto the scene in his very large truck, it’s testosterone overload. And while the children are mainly used as pawns in the larger power struggle, there are a couple of scenes in which Estevez has a chance to deliver some lines that are actually funny. And maybe that’s the takeaway: The silly men should step aside and let the little girl shine.

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