It’s Raining Dads For Christmas: Daddy’s Home 2

Daddy’s Home 2

Released on November 10, 2017                                    Rating:

Father and stepfather Dusty and Brad join forces to make Christmastime perfect for the children. Their newfound partnership soon gets put to the test when Dusty’s old-school, macho dad and Brad’s gentle father arrive to turn the holiday upside down. After a sudden change in plans, the four men decide to take the kids to a luxury resort for a fun-filled getaway that turns into a hilariously chaotic adventure.

I have seen a lot of sequels lately: Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Boo 2, and A Bad Mom’s Christmas – the last of which I absolutely loved. But in each of these reviews I talk about sequel lenses. Sequels are almost never on the same level of the original, no matter how entertaining they are. And to surpass the original – I can count examples on one hand, but now I have another to add to that list: Daddy’s Home 2.

Daddy’s Home 2 is funnier than the original. Better yet, the jokes, while still crass and bordering inappropriate for younger audiences (or completely inappropriate depending on the age and how parents feel about swearing) these jokes are in better taste. The original made jokes at the expense of kids in wheelchairs and ailing dogs, and this movie doesn’t depend on taking jabs at those that really shouldn’t be jabbed in the first place.

Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell return as dueling dads, Wahlberg as the macho birth father and Ferrell as the wimpiest person I have encountered onscreen since I can remember. The original is all about their rivalry, but dare I say they’re actually much funnier as allies, taking on an odd couple bromance quality. One of my favorite scenes of the entire movie is in the beginning when Ferrell brings Wahlberg hot cocoa and it’s Wahlberg’s turn to bring treats to a kid event. Wahlberg says he’ll stop by a bakery and Ferrell has this priceless look on his face and says that’s fine. Wahlberg says that he knows by that look it isn’t fine like a couple who have their own code that the other has learned to crack. It doesn’t mean these guys don’t still harbor a little animosity towards each other (they actually use “harbor” as the running joke to describe this) but they are pretty much good with each other. Until their dads enter the scene.

Mel Gibson plays Wahlberg’s ultra-macho, womanizing, deadbeat cliché dad who is sexist at best, but honestly I kind of see his character as an equal opportunity prick – we just never see him around people of color, LGBT folks or people with disabilities. John Lithgow plays Ferrell’s father, who isn’t quite as wimpy as his son, but certainly cuts it close and is just touchy/feely to a point of uncomfortableness. I’m sorry but grown fathers and sons who kiss each other HARD on the lips for several seconds is just creepy, and it’s not me being sexist, I would think the same thing of any child/parent combination. I mean we’re talking about 40-somethings here. Still, both of these actors raise the comedy bar in this film, upping the ante with both plot and added humor.

Gibson’s character is both passive-aggressive and flat out aggressive in trying to break up the peaceful coexistence Ferrell and Wahlberg have reached. He is disgusted with Ferrell’s lack of machismo and looks at Lithgow as a sad excuse for a father, and a man. He doesn’t hide any of this throughout the entire movie. But this is a guy who tells dead hooker jokes to small children, sees them every five plus years, and tells his granddaughter that her place isn’t to hunt, but to cook the food the men bring back. He is an ass – period.

Lithgow is pretty much the movie’s punching bag, between being left for dead and eaten by wolves to being assaulted with several ice balls, he has taken up a great deal of Ferrell’s physical comedy (don’t worry, plenty happens to Ferrell still, he even dies again). He is just so sweet, you can’t help but wish he was your dad, but also want to sit him down and give him a gentle dose of reality.

The whole “added talent/celebrity” is one of the oldest and most widely used formulas for sequels to use (even A Bad Mom’s Christmas centers on this formula, mirroring Daddy’s Home 2) but this might be the first film I’ve seen where it goes past gimmick and actually makes the movie genuinely better.

This movie is carried by its cast, but as I’ve already said the jokes are better – sharper, wittier, and producing more laughs every time, which means this movie has a stronger script and better writing overall. The pace is also on point and this movie is the perfect length – not too long or too short (just over 90 minutes). Pretty much everything in this movie just works, and I only have two criticisms.

First, the final scene was pretty hokey. Like it took on such a lovey-dovey far-fetched cornball turn, I thought it didn’t work. It was cheesy and didn’t fit the tone of the rest of the film. They could have delivered the same message and lessons in a scene that felt truer to the film and characters and didn’t produce eyerolls and shaking heads.

The other criticism is less of a criticism and more of a suggestion. I really wish they had swapped Gibson’s and Lithgow’s roles. Gibson is a former Hollywood player who has basically dried up because of his repeated anti-semetic and racist rants. So having him play a jack-hole is like having him play himself, and for me is just made me dislike Gibson, the actor, even more. And Lithgow always plays these offbeat, clueless yet overall sweet guys (3rd Rock From the Sun, Trial & Error). How interesting and funny would it have been for these actors to break type, with Lithgow playing the womanizing, sexist creep and Gibson playing the clueless, overly affectionate, “off” dad. It would have made this movie better, and delivered something audiences never expected to see. A missed opportunity sure, but this doesn’t change that this movie will make you laugh – a lot. And really that’s all you need to know.


Daddy’s Home 2 is a sequel that actually surpasses the original. It’s funnier, better balanced and paced, and has added star power that actually elevates the movie. If you want a good laugh, then look no further than Daddy’s Home 2. It will not disappoint! 🙂

-DMW

 

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An Entertaining Star-Studded Ride: Murder on the Orient Express

Murder on the Orient Express

Released on November 10, 2017                                    Rating:

A lavish trip through Europe quickly unfolds into a race against time to solve a murder aboard a train. When an avalanche stops the Orient Express dead in its tracks, the world’s greatest detective – Hercule Poirot – arrives to interrogate all of the passengers and search for clues before the killer can strike again.

I have a few confessions to make. The first is that though I have a total mystery buff, I have not read Agatha Christie’s novel that this film was based on. Meaning, I didn’t know how it ended going into the film. Next, I disagree with a lot of critics, because I really loved this movie. Here’s why.

Let’s talk about the reason most people, even those who know how the story ends, went to see the film: the cast. Murder features a slew of big names (Judi Dench, Michelle Pfeifer, Penelope Cruz, and Johnny Depp) as well as several up-and-comers (Daisy Ridley, Josh Gad, and Leslie Odom Jr.) in this constantly claustrophobic tale. (And all of the other performers are people you’ll recognize, but I’m not about to list out the entire cast here.) Every single member of the cast has their moment (or two) to shine, and they certainly don’t waste it. The performances are strong, surprisingly so since most of the characters don’t have a whole lot of material (with the exception of star/director Kenneth Branagh who plays Detective Hercule Poirot). I don’t fault the story or the script for this however, because in all accounts the critics agree that this adaptation was faithful to Christie’s novel – so that’s that.

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Suburbicon: A Misleading Community, A Misleading Movie

Suburbicon

Released on October 27, 2017                       Rating:

Suburbicon is a peaceful, idyllic, suburban community with the affordable homes and manicured lawns – the perfect place to raise a family, and in the summer of 1959, the Lodge family is doing just that. But the tranquil surface masks a disturbing reality, as husband and father Gardner Lodge must navigate the town’s dark underbelly of betrayal, deceit and violence.

Suburbicon could be accused of being two movies crammed into one so neither could really become what they needed to be – except this would be too kind. Instead this film seems to be one misstep after the next resulting in a film that doesn’t have enough to hold one tenth of a single film. (Or any at all.)

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Fun Holiday Rebellion In “A Bad Mom’s Christmas”

A Bad Mom’s Christmas

Released on November 1, 2017                                       Rating:

Under-appreciated and overburdened moms Amy, Kiki and Carla rebel against the challenges and expectations of the Super Bowl for moms: Christmas. As if creating the perfect holiday for their families isn’t hard enough, they’ll have to do it while hosting and entertaining their own respective mothers when they come to visit.

You know the drill when it comes to sequels – they (almost) never live up to the original, and A Bad Mom’s Christmas is no exception. But… it’s still a pretty funny movie, and it is bolstered by our bad moms’ moms (Christine Baranski, Cherly Hines and Susan Sarandon).

This film follows the same formula and premise of the original: a group of exhausted and underappreciated mothers banding together and rebelling against the chains of perfect motherhood. Last time it was a more universal and relatable plot, and this time it’s focused on all of the stereotypes of a modern Christmas. Besides the original’s ideas being more nuanced and relatable, the original just pulls it off better. A Bad Mom’s Christmas is fine and funny enough, but it never achieves the same magic and humor as the original.

Still despite this, the additional of our favorite moms’ moms helps immensely. Christine Baranski plays a perfectionist diva like no one else and she shines in this film. So does Sarandon, and perhaps it’s Sarandon and Kathryn Hahn that bring most of the laughs that the film offers. And Mila Kunis has a surprising amount of material of substance that allows her to dive into her character, and shows Kunis’ incredible range.

But not all of the moms shine in this film. Sadly Hines’ character is grossly underdeveloped giving her little to work with, though she sure does try. And Kristen Bell’s character also seems to have a lot less going on in this film and therefore a lot less laughs. The original did a better job of balancing our bad moms’ characters and their quirks equally, but this film was very unbalanced in that way.

Make no mistake, A Bad Mom’s Christmas doesn’t offer anything new and has no surprises in store. In fact, it is full of clichés both of sequels and holiday films. Its setup is tried and true. Despite a phenomenal cast, it never does reach the original’s wow factor. But as a sequel, did anyone really expect it to? What it does offer is hilarious, solid entertainment that sometimes borders the line between comedy and crass, but is still a win. So if you want to see a fun and funny holiday movie with a wonderful cast and over-the-top hijinks consider seeing A Bad Mom’s Christmas. I wasn’t disappointed.  Just remember to wear your sequel goggles! 😉

-DMW

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Thor: Ragnarok – The Best Thor Movie Yet!

Thor: Ragnarok

Released on November 3, 2017                     Rating:

Imprisoned on the other side of the universe, the mighty Thor finds himself in a deadly gladiatorial contest that pits him against the Hulk, his former ally and fellow Avenger. Thor’s quest for survival leads him in a race against time to prevent the all-powerful Hela from destroying his home world and the Asgardian civilization.

I have been eagerly anticipating the latest Thor film for a while. A big reason has to do with the fact that it delves deeper in Norse mythology than the first two installments and I’m a huge mythology buff (even more than superheroes!). Another reason is because Cate Blanchett stars, and she is amazing. Like so amazing I might have a girl crush on her.

But these reasons aside, Thor: Ragnarok is the best Thor film to date, which was actually surprising. Original films are usually hard to beat in terms of quality. And a third film is still a sequel, just not the first sequel. But Thor: Ragnarok surpasses the first two films on so many levels: script and story, gorgeous visuals and special effects, performances, pace, and fight sequences. That’s a lot of “better”.

Starting off the list, let’s talk story. This is just a better story period. It’s more interesting and doesn’t rely on the amazing special effects. It’s more than just solid, while I feel the first two films were only solid stories. Then there is the script which is separate from the story because the story is the premise while the script is the actual writing of said premise. This script is better. It doesn’t have any plot holes, while the first two films had a few, and has an easy humor without being cheesy with just the right amount of drama/seriousness without going to that melodramatic place that most movies tip into.

Next there are the visuals. They are stunning. Perhaps it’s because this movie mainly takes place in Asgard and other alien worlds, unlike the first two which mainly took place on Earth. This allows the film to really show us other worlds and civilizations that at times are absolutely breathtaking. Next are the special effects. In this film they’re not just on point, they’re wow and at the same time look easy – natural. Finally, let’s talk fight sequences. They were so organic and more of a beautiful dance than fighting, it was captivating to watch (and can I just say, Cate Blanchett – damn!).

Moving onto the performances, in the first two films things went into cheese territory a few times. Whether it was script or direction, the films didn’t fully utilize their casts. In this film, Chris Hemsworth (Thor) shows incredible range, a range I didn’t even know he had. So does Tom Hiddleston (Loki) though I knew he was capable of such a range. Tessa Thompson (Valkyrie) also impresses, nearly stealing every scene she is in. I’ve never heard of her, or seen her to my knowledge, but now I want to see more of her! And Cate Blanchett, was there ever a doubt? But I’ve never seen her do hardcore action or fighting before and again, I didn’t know she had it in her, but after seeing this film I firmly believe that there is nothing that she can’t do.

Finally, the pace… This film is just over two hours. It’s not the longest film there is, but is still on the longish side. But from beginning to end it held attention. It was never rushed and took its time where it needed to, but started on the ground running, and never slowed down. Not a single lull, not a single “check the time”, not a single anything because I was fixated on the film, and only the film. And this is no small feat for my very scattered “always on” brain. If it can hold my attention for two hours – that is really something!


Obviously, if you’re not into superhero movies, this film may not be your thing, regardless of how good it is. But for anyone else with even the slightest interest, go see this film. Do it now! 🙂

-DMW

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