Kernel Rating (out of 5): (1 out of 5)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 100 minutes
Age Appropriate For: 12+. The lazy writing, prevalent sexism, and disappointing stereotypes about masculinity from the first ‘Daddy’s Home’ film return for this sequel, which taps the same well for even unfunnier returns. Much like the first film, a variety of slapstick, violent physical humor, with characters getting hit and smacked around, subjected to frostbite, hunted by wolves, accidentally shot while hunting, and otherwise injured; rude and lewd jokes, including lots of sexist comments; some cursing, including from children, middle finger use, and bullying; some sexually themed situations and humor, including the mention of sideboob and discussions about womanizing and marital infidelity; demeaning comments and jokes about divorced families, stepparents, and homosexuality; children purposefully get drunk, a situation that is played entirely for laughs; and a character shoplifts with no repercussions.
A brazenly lazy sequel that dives headfirst into even more depressing depths than its predecessor, ‘Daddy’s Home 2’ is an onslaught of unfunny jokes that rely on sexism and closed-minded thinking.
By Roxana Hadadi
“Daddy’s Home 2” is embarrassing. Its use of sexually inappropriate behavior and gun violence for laughs is uncomfortable; its tropes about “traditional” masculinity vs. “snowflake” sensitivity is closed-minded; and its shallow storytelling about father-son relationships, with zero interest in the experiences or opinions of its female characters, is ignorant. “We’re back with more Daddys!” Will Ferrell’s character proclaims, but it’s a cause for concern more than glee.
This sequel arrives two years after the original, give or take a few weeks, and picks up where “Daddy’s Home” left off: Dueling dads Brad (Ferrell, of “Zoolander 2”) and Dusty (Mark Wahlberg, of “Transformers: The Last Knight”) have worked on settling the beef that consumed the first film. Brad is an attentive, devoted stepfather to Dusty’s son and daughter, while Dusty is trying to win over the sarcastic, skeptical daughter of his new wife. There is drama between the kids, but Brad and Dusty are unbelievably close—practically best friends—who trade reminders about their children’s after-school responsibilities and share hot cocoa.
But then one of the children complains about having to split time between the two households (being apparently, having stepparents and stepsiblings isn’t “normal,” a weird anti-divorce undercurrent that pops up throughout the film), and so Brad and Dusty decide to have a “together Christmas,” where both families celebrate in one place. It’s a nice idea—but one that becomes overly complicated when Dusty’s horrendously sexist, bigoted, and old-fashioned father, Kurt (Mel Gibson, of “The Expendables 3”), unexpectedly arrives for Christmas and is jealous of how close his grandchildren are with Brad’s father (John Lithgow, of “Interstellar”).
Kurt is, in practically every way, a jerk. He demeans his former daughter-in-law, Sara (Linda Cardellini, of “Avengers: Age of Ultron”); he tells his grandson that he should kiss whichever girls he likes and then slap their butts afterward; he’s openly impolite and dismissive to Brad and his father; and he’s a smirking, scoffing, toxic presence for Dusty, second-guessing everything he does, ribbing him about whether he has his “house in order,” and generally relying on what we are supposed to perceive as roguish, maverick charm, but which is really offensiveness, narcissism, and even sociopathy (he talks about wanting to kill and maim people, and we’re supposed to laugh at it).
Thanks to Kurt, the Christmas plans increasingly derail, driving a wedge between the formerly extremely close Brad and Dusty. But will the “co-dads” end their formerly close relationship just because a grownup bully gets in the way? What kind of example would that be setting for their children?
What is so infuriating about both this film and its predecessor is how the narratives reinforce clichés about gender roles and masculinity in both obvious and insidious ways. The closeness exhibited by the sensitive and compassionate Brad and his father is mocked at first, then it’s the gruff Dusty who realizes that something is wrong between the two, and finally it takes a physical shoving match for Brad and his father to reaffirm their relationship (an altercation in which Brad’s wife Sara tells her husband to stop being a “snowflake,” which feels like an unnecessarily loaded term in our current cultural moment). It’s only when Brad and his father act “more like men,” or like how Dusty and Kurt would act, that they are able to move forward. Something similarly gross is going on with the Kurt character, who encourages his grandson to behave inappropriately toward the girl he likes—and when he does, she doesn’t object to being kissed and having her behind smacked! Nope, she then turns around and encourages another girl to kiss that boy, and then a line of children forms so they can all get a smooch, and the line includes another boy hoping for a kiss, and the film presents that moment for laughs in an immature, discriminatory way that is clearly in line with everything else going on in “Daddy’s Home 2.”
Possibly somewhere, buried under all the stereotypes that mock “sensitive” men and disregard the opinions of women, “Daddy’s Home 2” wants to tell a story about togetherness and forgiveness. But those are barely explored themes slapped onto a story that spends most of its time relying on misogynistic jokes, judging blended families, and hoping that you’ll laugh at drunken, rude children and selfish, self-absorbed adults. “Daddy’s Home 2” claims to be about the Christmas spirit, but it’s no holiday.
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