Daddy’s Home 2 wants to be a charming inoffensive family Christmas movie. Now, when you’re judging this kinda thing you wanna take intent into account. You wanna hope that the filmmakers know what they be doing, that whatever happened they were just trying to make the best film that they possibly could. The mistakes that turn best intentions bad are often so hard to notice when you’re in the midst of things too. Perhaps you only notice in the edit that you really could have done with that shot, or what seemed fine on the page doesn’t quite scan right. Maybe it’s something as ephemeral as missing the tone you were aiming for, what could have caused that?
Daddy’s Home 2 is different. It has an obvious problem, a problem anyone could have foreseen before filming even started, and one which makes me inclined to drop that benefit. They cast famed misogynist, racist, homophobic actor Mel Gibson in a starring role. They even give him the ‘AND’ in the credits. It probably seems worse after the past few months we had, maybe everyone thought he was back in after Hacksaw Ridge last year. Whatever the reason the decision to cast him buries the movie.
Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell are two mismatched men who are managing to split the custody of their children in a healthy and supportive manner. They even like each other, how about that!? These male rivals shouldn’t be chums, ah comedy. For the first time they’re even going to spend the holidays together, all in one house, that’s how balanced and adult they are. But who’s that coming on the plane to spoil everyone’s plans? It’s grandpa Mel (oh, and also John Lithgow but he’s just here to be a comic foil).
It’s odd really because Gibson’s character is supposed to be the bad guy. He’s the one who is disgusted with the apparent effeminacy of his son’s living arrangement. He’s the one trying to create the drama, trying to divide the family unit, so why is the movie so obsessed with making him right? Okay so the screenplay draws the line when it comes to the character advocating the physical abuse of children but…
When it comes to conflict resolution, who’s got the correct answer? Gibson. When it comes to letting children use firearms, it’s Gibson. When it comes to gender roles in the household, well the ladies might not like it, but you know Gibson on the money. How about the public shaming of your children, nope I guess it’s just character building after all. It’s about the point where the man’s giving advice to a literal child about how to sexually assault women that any patience you have with this film is done.
It’s cos that script comes in with the same perspective that makes it okay to hire the dude. That he’s lowkey right. That yeah, he may be a bit of a cad and made a few boners in his time but still, he’s the cool one. He’s the manly one. He’s the one who we all wanna be. We laugh at seeing Ferrell and Lithgow kiss in a moment of familial affection, but it’s because our man Mel is in the background pulling a disgusted face.
This is a film by and for those men who proclaim loudly to be progressive, who understand that the future can be a nicer, better and more accepting place; but who still long for the time that they could be absolute cunts, and will drag their heels so long as they have a position in society that will let them get away with it. The feeble must move towards the future, the powerful can own today. This film don’t have a problem with that. It’s gross.
But then tie that into all the Mel Gibson shit that we’ve all heard about, y’all just have to google the man and you’ll find it. Semiotics are a whole thing but the film’s advocates for this character very reminiscent of Mel Gibson. Just a slightly cleaner more sanitised version of the man. Then they cast Mel Gibson and all of a sudden the misogynist dickbag on screen becomes the misogynist, racist, homophobic man in real life and everyone walks outta the cinema feeling all happy about that Mr. Gibson fella.
Compare that with Lithgow’s character, the filmmaker’s nightmare of the cuckolded effeminate man. He gets nothing except to be the butt of cheap jokes. And sure, I get it, there’s a lot of cheap jokes in this flick, the genre practically survives offa them, and when it’s not being gross it was making me laugh. We hardly spend any time with the women, of course, but Linda Cardellini gets some real good moments.
Then again, they’re mostly balanced out by the filmmaker’s portrayal of Alessanda Ambrosio as Karen, Wahlberg’s vapid, self-obsessed wife, who gets to be basically villain number two. ‘Because beautiful women right? They can’t be good mothers, too high maintenance.’ Eugh. Oh, and the bratty kids are the girls, the young boy gets to be a veritable angel. Nothing against the kid, he do good in the part, it’s the blatant misogyny that bothers me.
This whole film bothers me, and it bothers me most because I laughed at it. If I weren’t a resistant reader I would totally have been sucked in. I hold no ill will towards anyone who was because it so tempting.
This is the most disgusting film since Passengers.
Daddy’s Home 2 is currently screening in UK cinemas.