“Sex Drive” writer & director Sean Anders scored a box office hit back in 2015 when he cast slapstick comic Will Ferrell and smash-up action hero Mark Wahlberg respectively as stepdad and dad in “Daddy’s Home” (2015), a boisterous comedy of errors about parenthood. Happily, Anders’s Yuletide sequel “Daddy’s Home 2,” reunites most of the original cast, except for Hannibal Buress as Griff the handyman, Thomas Haden Church as Brad’s boss Leo Holt, and Brad’s pestilent-looking pet pooch Tumor. Anders and “That’s My Boy” writer John Morris have duplicated the first film’s facetious rivalry and escalated everything to a new level as granddads Mel Gibson and John Lithgow loom on the horizon. Although it isn’t as deliriously daffy as “Daddy’s Home,” “Daddy’s Home 2” (*** OUT OF ****) still delivers more than enough amusing moments to keep you in stitches. Will Ferrell performs his usual accident-prone antics, some reminiscent of those in the first film. Moreover, Brad gets second chance to croak momentarily after electrocuting himself under different circumstances. Indeed, you cannot truly savor some of the sight gags in “Daddy’s Home 2” unless you’ve seen the original. This dysfunctional family farce sets the fathers against the grandfathers, and the situations are often sidesplitting. Ferrell’s encounter with an out-of-control snow blower on the rampage evokes memories of his disastrous motorcycle ride in “Daddy’s Home.” As Dusty’s father Kurt, Mel Gibson is grouchy and gray-haired, and the tension simmering between Kurt and Dusty is palpable. “Daddy’s Home 2” charts the changes in Kurt and Dusty’s relationship as estranged son and father. The adage about ‘like father, like son’ applies to them. Anders and Morris make Dusty’s dad Kurt an obnoxious, womanizing Grinch with no qualms about indulging in a dirty joke in front of the grandkids. Compared with Dusty’s emotionally-immune but masculine patriarch, Brad’s dad, Don is a hopeless crybaby about his son. Greeting each other at the airport, Brad and Don hug and kiss passionately on the lips without shame! When the fathers aren’t bickering with each other, they discover Dusty’s son Dylan is experiencing love at first sight, and the dads rush to furnish him fatherly advice.
As “Daddy’s Home 2” unfolds, Dusty Mayron (Mark Wahlberg of “The Departed”) and Brad Whitaker (Will Ferrell of “The House”) have bonded as dad and step-dad. Now, they are now best buddies who no longer resort to trying to one-up man each other in front of the kids to win their allegiance. Mind you, Dusty has mellowed considerably. He has taken over the position at the school that Doris had in the original when she scolded parents about keeping their cars within the traffic cones when they deposited and picked-up their children. As Christmas approaches, Dylan (Owen Vaccaro of “Mother’s Day”) and Megan (Scarlett Estevez of “And Then There Was You”) complain about all the back and forth driving to different houses that will ruin the holiday. Brad comes up with a novel idea, and Dusty agrees with him that they should throw one big party at one house for everybody. Dylan’s cell phone rings, and he is excited to hear that Dusty’s father Kurt has rung him. Suddenly, Dusty confronts the uncomfortable prospect of spending Christmas with his father. Later, Brad phones his father, retired postal carrier Don Whitaker (John Lithgow of “Interstellar “), and his dad promises to visit them during the holidays. When Kurt and Don show up, the relationship between Dusty and Brad spins out of control again. Chiefly, Kurt makes life difficult for Dusty. Kurt believes Dusty has forsaken his masculinity to work with Brad and his own ex-wife Sara (Linda Cardellini of “Brokeback Mountain”) concerning his kids. Kurt has a low opinion of both Brad and Don, and he hates to see the Whitakers manipulating Dusty’s children. Meantime, Don is overwhelmed to see Brad with whom he hasn’t been in contact in less than a month.
Kurt decides everybody would be better accommodated if they celebrated Christmas elsewhere rather than at Brad’s house. Kurt books them into a picturesque mansion atop a snow-swept hill at a ski resort. An Internet marketplace and hospitality service, Airbub lets people either lease or rent lodging for vacations. Everybody piles into two separate SUVs and cruises off on a five-hour drive that ends at the driveway of a spacious house in a winter wonderland. No sooner have they arrived than Brad tangles with a runaway snow blower that destroys all their elaborate Christmas decorations scattered across in the yard and on the roof of the house. Meantime, Kurt criticizes Dusty not only for letting Brad and Sara dictate to him when he may visit his daughter and son, but also his relationship with his step-daughter Adrianna. Kurt’s intrigues and Brad calamities constitute the high points of this farce that isn’t entirely family friendly considering some of its profane, PG-13 dialogue. Predictably, Brad makes a buffoon of himself. At one point, he cuts down a tree on public land that has a cell phone tower attached to it! During their caper through the woods to find a Christmas tree, the family loses track of Don, but they manage to rescue him later after a pack of wolves are swarming around him.
Will Ferrell doesn’t spend the entire time making an idiot out of himself. Nevertheless, his clowning will keep you in stitches. Mel Gibson looks like he had a blast as Dusty’s disreputable dad. He does his best to turn Dusty against Brad again, but eventually must face the fact that he wasn’t a good enough role model father for Dusty. Mark Wahlberg divides his time between harassing Ferrell and contending with his father and John Cena. Cena plays the father of Dusty’s step-daughter Adrianna, and he doesn’t see eye-to-eye with Dusty on the matter of raising her. The funniest joke near the end concerns a fictionalized action movie entitled “Missile Tow” starring Liam Neeson. “Daddy’s Home 2” succeeds far better as a comedy sequel than a heartwarming Christmas movie.