The lesson that reviewers need to learn is that they should not always sit at a preview with other reviewers, often solemnly po-faced during comedies. It might be better to sit in with a crowd of younger people who love the slapstick, are not afraid to laugh out loud, who offer a rollicking response to a film. Certainly the case with Daddy’s Home Two.
Hollywood has the habit of making several films on similar themes at the same time, at the end of 2016, equal time for family films… Bad Moms and Daddy’s Home. Popular with audiences and commercial success. So at the end of 2017, equal time for family films… Bad Moms 2 and Daddy’s Home 2.
But, both sequels have a lot in common. Both of them have a Christmas setting and announce at various times how many days it is before Christmas. And, thankfully, both have an acknowledgement that Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ, midnight mass and carols with the Moms, a crib tableau with the dads, though some mayhem ensues…
But the great brainwave for the success of Bad Moms 2 was to introduce the grandmothers, some Bad Grandmoms. For Daddy’s Home Two we are introduced to the grandfathers. Since we already know the father’s, Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, we might guess that one is going to be roly-poly sweet and the other is not, definitely not. And they are played by John Lithgow enjoying himself immensely as a sweetness and light kind grandfather and by Mel Gibson who obviously relishes Kurt by name and curt by nature.
The situation in the first film was that the two fathers, completely unlike, Will Ferrell a kindly and gawky Brad, while Mark Wahlberg is rough and tough, Dusty. The film’s film was based on the premise of divorced families and the custody of the children, the two families in question, some of the children shared. The idea is that the families should actually work together, some co-parenting, all celebrating Christmas together. This sequel takes this for granted and that Brad and Dusty are firmly committed to it.
Don, John Lithgow, endorses his son more than 100%, lots of affectionate talk and embraces and kisses, lots of patter of the warm and cuddly type. Kurt has not been around for years, was an ineffectual parent, an astronaut, away from home, a womaniser, and severe and mocking with Mel Gibson’s glowering look.
What happens is to be expected – though there is lots of slapstick comedy, lots of pratfalls, ridiculous situations which led to a lot of laughter from the audience.
How are they all going to manage? Brad’s wife is loving? His stepchildren love him too? Dusty has a rather serious, glamorous wife, who is continually noting down details in her book for her writing. She has a rather sullen daughter. How are they going to manage?
Kurt not only has a bright idea, going away for Christmas, but instantly books an AirB&B on his phone. It takes five hours to get there by car and Kurt learns something of purgatory as he listens to Don and Brad going on and on and on so cheerfully.
Settling in, setting up the decorations – a sure sign for all kinds of things to go wrong. And, of course, they do. There is also a rivalry which results in Brad not only cutting down a Christmas tree but the tree which contains cell-phone connections. There is the fore-mentioned crib and quite a lot of snowballs.
There is a touch of pathos because Don has come by himself, saying that his wife has been held back by family illness. Rusty tweaks what has happened and when Don volunteers to entertain at an improv cafe, with Brad urging him on, Don has an emotional collapse.
So, with things turning out badly, on Christmas Day they set out for home only to be caught in bumper-to-bumper traffic by an avalanche. Fortunately, there is cinema complex nearby and all the motorists go there is something to eat and drink and a movie. The film that family actually goes into see is an action thriller with Liam Neeson, called Missile Tow, Neeson being heard but not seen.
Actually, that could be quite a good title for a thriller at Christmas! Missile Tow.
We all know it’s going to end well – but, with Kurt being as he is, it is rather restrained (except for his giving his son a big long kiss!).
And so, in 2018, where will the Bad Moms go? Where can Daddy’s Home Three go?
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.
Review by the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting