As Hollywood has imploded over the past few weeks with various reports of men in power abusing power, the fact that the Mel Gibson Redemption Tour would hit theaters this week is the height of bad timing. Gibson, who has been mostly frozen out of major Hollywood pictures for the bulk of the past decade, has finally started returning to major productions with last year’s incredibly silly Hacksaw Ridge. And it’s disheartening to see someone who has been so publicly and privately vile welcomed back at a time when it seems like a lot of flotsam might finally be purged from the entertainment industry.
I don’t really mention this as a person who’s passing judgment on high like the voice of Zardoz, but as a person who struggles with separating the art from the artist. Part of the problem here is that this is a review of Daddy’s Home 2, a movie that’s as far from “art” as one can get. This is a moneymaking opportunity for everyone involved and a pretty slipshod one at that. So, what could have been an innocuously stupid movie is instead a vehicle to massage the image of a man who’s done and said some pretty terrible things, while also using that same image to make crude, tasteless jokes against a background of holiday cheer.
The idea here is that we have Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell, two dads who hated one another in Daddy’s Home (2015) but are now friends in the sequel, welcoming their fathers (Gibson and John Lithgow, respectively) home for the holidays. Much of the supposed comedy revolves around the idea that Wahlberg’s father, Kurt, is a gruff, overbearing and awash in alpha male machismo. This manifests itself in Kurt giving his grandson advice on how to manhandle women and telling children jokes about dead prostitutes. Of course, in the end, the feel-good ending every holiday movie requires shows Kurt to be not that bad of a guy.
The whole thing is so monumentally and transparently tone deaf that the movie becomes unsettling, while nothing else in the film is able to redeem Daddy’s Home 2 in any way. For the most part, the movie’s just a collection of Will Ferrell pratfalls and his usual comedic screeching. The base idea of the whole endeavor is to make a franchise out of the fairly terrible Daddy’s Home, a concept in itself that was always doomed to failure. The underlying thread of grotesqueness just makes the movie memorable for its wrongheadedness. Rated PG-13 for suggestive material and some language. Now playing at AMC River Hills, Carolina Cinemark, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande.