Daddy’s Home 2 ***

Funnier than expected, and perfect to get you in the holiday spirit! 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

“Daddy’s Home” (2015) was a predictable lark of unfunny gags, faux machismo, and pandering sweetness. To our surprise, “Daddy’s Home 2” is just the opposite: The gags (except for one) don’t play out the way we expect, the machismo is Mel Gibson-ed up to a new level, and the pandering sweetness is Christmas-themed, which I’m admittedly a sucker for. If you’re looking for something fun to do to inspire holiday spirit with the family this year, look no further.

At the start of director Sean Anders’ sequel, Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) and Brad (Will Ferrell) have the “co-dad” thing down pat. Brad is still married to Dusty’s ex, Sara (Linda Cardellini), and together the three of them are raising Dusty and Sara’s kids, Dylan (Owen Vaccaro) and Megan (Scarlett Estevez). There’s no tension or awkwardness because they got that out of their system in the first movie. Also, Dusty is now married to Karen (Alessandra Ambrosio), who previously had daughter Adrianna (Didi Costine) with Roger (John Cena), so he understands the situation from all sides.

After Megan complains of having to split her time on Christmas at two houses, the family decides to have Christmas together this year. Then Dusty gets a phone call: His father, Kurt (Gibson), is coming for the holidays, and he’s a worse version of the insensitive, womanizing and unlikeable Dusty from the first movie. Add to this Brad’s father, the lovably chatty Don (John Lithgow), also coming to town, and you have a house full of wildly different personalities and craziness.

If you’re worried about not keeping all of the familial relationships straight, don’t. In fact, you don’t even have to see the loathsome first movie to enjoy this one, as everything is pretty self-explanatory, and more importantly, consistently funny.

Some comedies telegraph their jokes long before they arrive, making the punch lines inevitable rather than surprising and humorous. With “Daddy’s Home 2” the execution of the jokes comes in ways you don’t expect. For example, in the opening moments Brad bends over to pick something up near a swing set, and there’s a cut to the swing coming right at him. He swiftly moves out of the way. Good – the joke we knew was coming didn’t come. Then out of nowhere, and with no way for us to expect it, a flying ball hits him in the face. That’s funny. The only bit that doesn’t work is the one with the house lights, mostly because it feels forced and too outlandish.

There are also lame plot points the film introduces then skillfully avoids. At one point Dylan asks Brad for advice on women, and insists Brad not tell Dusty. Lesser movies would’ve hung tension on the secretive nature of the scene, leading to a tedious payoff later. Thankfully Dusty and Kurt overhear Brad’s terrible advice and Dusty is able too help. Then the pig Kurt takes it too far. Again, humor coming in the right places the right way.

It’s fascinating how Anders could be the co-writer and director of the original and it could be so bad, and could return in the same roles for the sequel and it could be so good. Credit to him for learning from his mistakes, because “Daddy’s Home 2” is a winner.

Did you know?
In case you’re wondering: Scarlett Estevez does not appear to be related to actor/director Emilio Estevez.

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