Daddy's Home 2. (12A.)
Directed by Sean Anders.
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Will Ferrell, Mel Gibson, Linda Cardellini, John Cena, John Lithgow. 100 mins
Those of you who, though you'd never say the words out loud, are secretly saddened that you may never see Kevin Spacey or Louis C.K. work again, can take some consolation in the career resurrection of Mel Gibson. Here he is, in a Christmas family comedy, playing a caricature version of his reactionary self, and is at times its voice of reason.
The first Daddy's Home saw neutered new man stepdad Ferrell and macho man biological father Wahlberg fighting over how to bring up his children. Daddy's Home 2 is a lazy family comedy sequel that keeps wandering away from the light. The laziness is right there in the posters. The sequel adds their respective grandfathers, Lithgow (in bright Christmas jumper) and Gibson (in black), and sets it all over Christmas as the extended family strive desperately to give their spawn the Perfect Christmas that is their birthright.
It's a real seesaw ride. All the family bickering and bits of slapstick are tiresome but they are interspersed with inspired bits of subversive comic invention. Ferrell specialises in satires that are so sly they are almost indistinguishable from the thing that it is sending up. Daddy's Home 2 is addressing the culture war going on in America. Real man gun enthusiast Gibson objects to the way his son has been snowflaked by touchy-feely PC ninny Ferrell. There's often a lot going on in its bland exchanges and the film is so convincing in setting itself up as an insipid piece of generic pap that scenes like the family bickering around the nativity manger while dressed up as Joseph and Mary and the shepherds; the daughter being trained to use a gun to shot a turkey; or the group singalong to the Live Aid anthem Do They Know It's Christmas in a cinema foyer as popcorn and supersized cokes are being handed out, can pass you by without really registering how daring and pointed they are.