It’s hard to know if this clunky comedy is part of Mel Gibson’s redemption arc or some strange new form of karmic retribution. A seasonal turkey, ‘Daddy’s Home 2’ sees him unleash a monster as the alpha dad of Mark Walhberg’s rough-hewn Dusty. Meanwhile, John Lithgow is the touchy-feely father to Will Ferrell’s wimpy Brad, who’s still happily married to Dusty’s ex (Linda Cardellini) and now has a baby of his own. Yes, it’s complicated.
The set-up has the pair of younger men sharing dad duties for a posse of mischievous scamps – if you haven’t seen ‘Daddy’s Home’, prepare not to know who any of them are – until Gibson’s twinkly he-devil, Kurt, flies in to bring the arrangement crashing down. ‘It looks as if he’s been chiselled from Gibraltar itself,’ gasps Ferrell of Gibson as the clans head off for a shared Christmas. In truth, his acting is Gibraltar-like too: glowering, rock-like, as chaos reigns. It’s an oddly jarring comic turn from a man who once did this stuff with his eyes closed.
Saving the day is Ferrell, who gamely flings himself into all kinds of slapstick. The film’s best moment, though, comes later: the families go to see a fictional action movie headlined by a cameoing star. It’s a hilarious bit of self-parody and it makes you wish you could watch that film instead.