[Screen It]

(2017) (Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg) (PG-13)

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Comedy: A large blended family goes away to a ski resort for the Christmas holiday and must confront their issues with each other.
Brad Whitaker (WILL FERRELL) and Dusty Mayron (MARK WAHLBERG) have mostly gotten past their differences from the first film mostly. Brad is married to Dusty's first wife, Sara (LINDA CARDELLINI), and is the stepdad to her kids, shy and awkward Dylan (OWEN VACCARO), and feisty and free-spirited Megan (SCARLETT ESTEVEZ). The rougher, tougher Dusty is still with model-turned-author Karen (ALESSANDRA AMBROSIO) and is the stepdad to her sullen, iPhone-obsessed teenage daughter, Adrianna (DIDI COSTINE).

Their shared custody and status as "co-dads" is confusing at times, but it works. That is, until the latest Christmas season rolls around, and Dusty learns that his boorish father, Kurt (MEL GIBSON), is coming for a holiday visit. Kurt is a former astronaut who has been a ladies man all his life and raised Dusty on tough love. He sees the two "co-dads" as an affront to masculinity and does his best to undermine the situation after booking a holiday week trip for everyone to a ski resort.

Matters are complicated when Brad's dad, Don (JOHN LITHGOW), also is coming for the Christmas week festivities. He tells Brad that his mom had to stay behind to care for an ailing relative, but secretly they are divorced after decades of marriage. Kurt scoffs as the touchy-feely relationship Brad and Don share, which leads to more tension in the cabin. And then the tension is really ratcheted up when Adrianna's manly, muscular husband, Roger (JOHN CENA), shows up.

OUR TAKE: 4.5 out of 10
The new sequel "Daddy's Home 2" will make you appreciate "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" even more. And I didn't think that was possible because the latter is one of my favorite holiday movies of all time maybe my favorite unless you count "Die Hard" and "Lethal Weapon" as Christmas movies. If you do, you really can't beat "Ho, ho, ho! Now I have a machine gun!" and that opening scene of "Lethal Weapon" where the coked-up hooker does a header off a 40-story balcony. That's good holiday cheer.

But back to "Daddy's Home 2." It's not terrible. It's just not very good either. And it steals a LOT from the Griswalds' holiday classic. Both films feature large blended families including multiple generations forced to live under one roof for about a week at Christmastime. And both films feature near identical gags that were funnier back in 1989: the dim-witted dad cutting down a tree way too large for the house, the dim-witted dad creating a debacle with some outdoor Christmas lights, the dim-witted dad careening out of control down a snowy hill and landing hard against a building.

I don't mind uninspired films. But outright stealing?! And not only that, but stealing from a film you are clearly trying to emulate? Not cool.

Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg return from the first "Daddy's Home" as "co-dads" to a brood of kids. Will's Brad Whitaker has married Dusty's (Wahlberg) first wife, Sara (Linda Cardellini) and is the stepdad to Dusty's two kids. Meanwhile, Sara and Brad have had a baby son of their own. Brad is a touchy-feely, earthy-crunchy, progressive sort of kind. Dusty is a rough-and-tumble bad boy, who has married a supermodel-turned-author and is trying to be a stepdad to her daughter.

For the first time, they decided to combine the families and have Christmas together. One problem. Dusty's macho, manly, Type A dad, Kurt (Mel Gibson) has invited himself along and booked a cabin at a ski resort for all of them to stay. Second problem. Brad's kissy-huggy retired postman father, Don (John Lithgow), is also coming and he hasn't told Brad or the family that he and his wife of decades have recently divorced.

Sitcom-level hijinks ensue. Some of the gags are pretty funny. I liked a bit where the families go bowling and the nerdy grandson, Dylan (Oscar Vaccaro) is incapable of knocking down a single pin without the lane protectors up. But Kurt refuses to give the boy any help, and the entire bowling alley takes bets on whether the kid will bowl the first ever 0-score game.

Other bits, though, seek to have some edge to them. But they just come off flat or tonally wrong, like Kurt taking his granddaughter hunting for wild turkeys or Don forced to confess his divorce during a cruel improv comedy club bit.

All is very nearly forgiven, though, during a truly inspired climax in which a snowed-in cineplex, a cheesy Liam Neeson holiday action flick (with Neeson turning in a game vocal cameo), and quite possibly the greatest Christmas song of the 1980s all factoring in. I wish the rest of the film were as fun and funny and on target. Hey, I love Christmas movies and have recommended some real stocking coals over the years because the formula always goes down so easy for me. But this one had more potential than most, and it's a shame there wasn't a sharper rewrite. I give it a 4.5 out of 10. (T. Durgin)

Reviewed November 7, 2017 / Posted November 10, 2017

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