Daddy’s Home had one joke: it is pathetic when a man shows emotion. Beyond that, the first Daddy’s Home was about as generic, lifeless, and mediocre as possible, even finding a way to making Hannibal Buress generally unfunny. You have to actually try to be that bad. But Daddy’s Home 2 ups the ante, taking the worst tendencies of the original, cranking them even higher, and making them the focal point. Daddy’s Home 2 isn’t just a terrible comedy, it belittles the intelligence of its audience with its choices.
In the first film, Brad Whitaker (Will Ferrell) plays a new stepfather to the kids of Sara (Linda Cardellini), who have yet to accept them as the latest addition to their home. Making matters worse was their real father Dusty (Mark Wahlberg), the macho former love that wants to win his family back. But as these things go, by the beginning of Daddy’s Home 2, Brad and Dusty are best friends, with Dusty opening up his sensitive side in a way that’s actually borderline endearing. With Christmas on the way, Brad and Sara decide to spend the holiday with Dusty and his new family, so that the back-and-forth won’t be too much for the kids.
Since this is a sequel, where the stakes need to be significantly raised, Daddy’s Home 2 introduces the fathers of Brad and Dusty, who are extreme, broad distillations of Brad and Dusty themselves. Since Brad is a softy, John Lithgow as Brad’s dad is essentially a cloud. He’s too sensitive for PG-13 movies and intentionally likes connecting flights so he can have more conversations with various people.
This cranking up of characterizations from the first film leads to the most obvious problem in Daddy’s Home 2: Mel Gibson. Playing Dusty’s father Kurt, Gibson is a former astronaut who constantly abandoned his son. Of course, he is offended by how emasculated by his son’s sensitivity, and plans to upend Dusty’s friendship with Brad.
Kurt is the film’s only source of drama, and the way Daddy’s Home 2 presents this friction is problematic at all times. Kurt rolls his eyes any time his son shows emotion, and when Brad gives his stepson advice that he should actually listen to the problems of girls he likes, it’s thrown off as a silly joke. Kurt easily convinces his grandkids that they want shotguns for Christmas, even though he believes women should cook whatever the men kill hunting. When he is belittled into taking his granddaughter hunting, she accidentally shoots him, to which his reply is to aim for the center next time.
Still, the most egregious thing is that after Brad’s romantic advice to his son, Kurt states that when he likes a girl, he should give his a kiss – wanted or not – and then slap her on the ass. Either the film is playing off of Gibson’s past behavior as a joke, or it’s hoping that the audience will see this as Gibson joking about himself and will forgive him – which might be worse. Or – and this is probably the most likely scenario – it’s hoping that their audience won’t make the connection between the sexist and homophobic Gibson, and the sexist, homophobic, gun nut of Kurt. Daddy’s Home 2 hopes that ignorance will be bliss.
Because of Kurt’s attitude towards having actual feelings, which is the crux of Daddy’s Home 2’s “narrative arc,” the film also becomes aggressive about how it treats any usage of emotions. This is perfectly summed up when one character has a breakdown at a comedy show over their recently failed marriage, to which the audience laughs constantly, and to which the film tries to throw jokes in to undercut the actual pain being shown. Again, since actual emotion is being shown, Daddy’s Home 2 has no choice but to point and laugh at the person who dares to be anything other than a stoic sign of machismo.
Daddy’s Home 2 beings centers around a slightly charming friendship, and quickly becomes a cruel, pathetically unfunny and generally mean holiday film. Even without the gross use of Gibson for the sake of some sort of career revival, Daddy’s Home 2’s toxic masculinity makes this one of the most infuriating holiday comedies ever made.