The rotten apple never falls far from the tree and Sean Anders’ mouldering sequel to his testosterone-fuelled 2015 comedy lands with a mightier thud than its ham-fisted predecessor.
Drenched in enough sickly festive spirit to make even the most ardent fan of Christmas gag and splutter “bah humbug”, Daddy’s Home 2 reunites a gurning Will Ferrell and po-faced Mark Wahlberg as hapless parents with very different approaches to raising the same children.
Father knows best – or loudly claims to – in Anders’ script, co-written by John Morris, which ramps up the mean-spirited games of one-upmanship with the addition of an older generation of dysfunctional family members.
Themes of divorce, infidelity and macho pride are clumsily flung into an unappetising mix that once again relies heavily on Ferrell’s repertoire of exaggerated physical pratfalls for meek laughs.
There are only so many times he can be pummelled in the face before our season of good will wanes.
Mild-mannered nice guy Brad Whitaker (Ferrell) and his wife’s first husband, Dusty Mayron (Wahlberg), have called a truce for the sake of Sarah (Linda Cardellini) and her two cherubic children, Dylan (Owen Wilder Vaccaro) and Megan (Scarlett Estevez).
Biological father and stepfather are in sweet harmony, co-ordinating timetables to ensure they both attend important after-school events including an end of term performance where Megan publicly laments having to spend her Yuletide holiday in two locations.
Consequently, Brad and Dusty orchestrate a “together Christmas” that will include Dusty’s novelist wife Karen (Alessandra Ambrosio), his teenage stepdaughter Adrianna (Didi Costine) and the paternal grandparents.
Dusty’s alpha-male father Kurt (Mel Gibson), who used to pilot NASA space shuttles, arrives with a swagger and instantly raises his son’s hackles.
Meanwhile, Brad’s cuddly old man Don (John Lithgow) emerges from his plane without his wife in tow because she is caring for her brother who has “come down with a bad case of the shingles”.
Kurt spitefully reopens old wounds between Brad and Dusty for personal amusement and when Adrianna’s biological father Roger (John Cena) muscles in on the festivities, tidings of comfort and joy run dry.
“Let’s focus on the kids and giving them a better childhood than you had,” Brad implores Dusty.
Daddy’s Home 2 is stuffed with lacklustre punchlines and mawkish sentiment.
Ferrell and Wahlberg go through the laboured motions while new additions to the cast are depressingly short on likeability and dramatic purpose.
Band Aid’s 1984 charity single Do They Know It’s Christmas?, which raised millions for famine relief in Ethiopia, is misappropriated here as a dewy-eyed cast sing-along to underscore scenes of consumer greed and gratuitous product placement.
“In our world of plenty we can spread a smile of joy,” caterwauls Ferrell. Not in Anders’ film.