When Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg paired up for the surreal buddy cop comedy The Other Guys, you sensed a new dim bulb dynamic duo in the making. They were funny, both playing with and against type. You sensed the chemistry between them and the affection they had for the challenge of making the audience laugh while keeping their composure on set. It was the same with John C. Reilly and Step Brothers. Indeed, when Ferrell finds a preferred partner in punchlines, he always game for a repairing.
So with a return of Detective Allen “Gator” Gamble nowhere to be seen and a revisit to Brennan Huff a seeming impossibility, the comic actor has chosen to return to his biggest box office hit, Daddy’s Home. With Wahlberg as the macho man match-up to Ferrell’s fey overly sensitive parent, audiences lined up to the tune of $242 million worldwide. Now, Brad Whitaker (Ferrell) and Dusty Mayron (Wahlberg) are back and they are bringing a bit of stunt casting to the wholly unnecessary sequel set-up.
Our dads have done gone and made nice with each other, putting the chest beating burlesque of the first film behind them–or so we think. Brad is still a grade-A wuss while Dusty gets his dude on with regularity. Things take a turn for the trying when their respective fathers decided to visit for the holidays. With the arrival of Don Whitaker (John Lithgow), the level of dorkiness increases ten-fold. When ex-astronaut Kurt Mayron (Mel Gibson) joins in for the Yuletide cheer, things go from bad to worse. Adding insult to Brady Bunch like blended injury is the reemergence of Dusty’s own rival, the biological father of his stepdaughter Adrianna (Didi Costine), Roger (John Cena).
What ensues is 100 middling minutes of mindless meandering with attempts at slapstick and social satire thrown in for added aggravation. Daddy’s Home 2 is a perfect example of what’s wrong with American comedies today. They aren’t scripted as much as strung out along a narrative clothesline, the better for the supposedly skilled cast to toss their witty bon mots and improvised hilarity upon. Like a stand-up having an off night, however, Daddy’s Home 2 dies. If you laugh at all, it’s because of how audaciously inept it all is.
Granted, inviting Gibson to the party may have seemed like a master stroke–until you realize he is playing purely with his perceived persona. He’s the total tough guy who can’t fathom his son wanting to share fatherhood duties with the dithering Brad. Lithgow is given even less to do, and it’s odd considering that few would pigeonhole him as a weak wet blanket. Director Sean Anders hopes his gimmick will give him more than just the usual groans, but any film featuring the former Mad Max as a raving misogynist with a tendency to tell off-color jokes to ten-year-olds begs for such moans.
This is more in line with Anders script for the awful Dumb and Dumber To in that it takes a previously established comic pairing and puts them through paces both familiar and painfully unfunny. Gags don’t land, unless it’s with a pathetic thud, and the rest of the cast are reduced to standing around watching Ferrell and Wahlberg mine for humor. What they wind up discovering is fool’s gold–enough to give the devoted what they paid their money for, but hardly anything but failed fan service in the end.
Like the lame Meet the Parents films, which pushed an intriguing familial premise to the absolute breaking point, you can see Daddy’s Home 3 and Daddy’s Home 4 driving whatever potential this faux franchise had going for it deeper into the ground. Ferrell and Wahlberg have made magic together before. This time around, Daddy’s Home 2 is a dud.