Who ever would’ve thought the day would come that Mel Gibson would be re-established enough to earn himself a prime role in a family-aimed comedy? Whilst the controversial figure has been steadily working over the least few years, either headlining under-seen projects (Get The Gringo, Blood Father) or co-starring in ensemble pieces (Expendables 3, Machete Kills), it was his critically acclaimed turn behind the camera with last year’s Hacksaw Ridge that has seemingly voided his pariah status in the industry.
Whatever your personal thoughts on the man are – and there are many taking issue with his appearance in the film due to the current climate of misbehaving males in Hollywood being sternly shunned – there’s no denying that he’s Daddy Home 2‘s brightest spark. The return of sparring duo Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg adds little to the overall proceedings as they feel on autopilot in their specific stereotypical outlines, but Gibson, almost sensing this could be his ticket back to mainstream media, throws himself wholeheartedly into the role, even if the film’s PG classification means he’s particularly censored.
Outside of his lively performance, Daddy’s Home 2 is pretty stock-standard material as Ferrell’s placid Brad and Wahlberg’s more aggressive Dusty hope their co-dad idea of a “together Christmas” will satisfy their collective children and wives; Linda Cardellini returning as Brad’s put-upon partner Sara, and Victoria Secret model Alessandra Ambrosio doing little besides swanning about and pouting as Dusty’s new wife Karen. This would all be well-and-good if Brad’s overbearing father Don (John Lithgow) and Dusty’s demeaning pap Kurt (Gibson) weren’t making themselves comfortable in their household for the festive season, leading the supposedly chummy Brad and Dusty to unleash their harbouring feelings of resentment towards each other.
Unwanted family visits and the burden of disapproving parents is essentially where all Christmas-set comedies find themselves at some stage, but unlike the recent Bad Moms 2 (which revelled in its adult mentality) this sequel feels too constricted by its family-friendly rating. It all gets just a little-too sickly sweet, and an odd sing-a-long sequence towards the back-end of the film (to the tune of Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas”) feels wildly out-of-place and only inserted to perhaps distract easily entertained families from the fact they’re watching the lowest denomination of comedy.
When it boils down to it, Daddy’s Home 2 isn’t particularly necessary and as odd as it feels to see Gibson in a film of this ilk, he’s undoubtedly the best thing about it though. Ferrell, Wahlberg, Lithgow, and a later-introduced John Cena manage to wring a few laughs out of Sean Anders and John Morris‘s tepid script, and the younger crowd its playing towards will most likely lap it up, but those hoping for something witty and worthy of the capable cast its been afforded will be left sorely disappointed.
Review Score: TWO STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Daddy’s Home 2 hits Australian cinemas on Thursday, November 23rd