Daddy’s Home 2: Movie Man Jackson

The dads are back in town. After going to war over who would be the rightful dad to Dusty’s (Mark Wahlberg) kids, stepfather Brad (Will Ferrell) and biological father Dusty have reached an understanding and one could even call them friends. There’s a clear understanding of schedules and needs, and everything’s working out, aside from Christmas-time. To make for a more enriching X-mas, Brad suggests a “together Christmas” between the two families with everyone around to celebrate the holiday in the same house.

The only thing that could screw this up is the presence of their dads. And what do you know, Dusty’s dad, macho Kurt (Mel Gibson) and Brad’s dad, mushy Don (John Lithgow) arrive. The basic Christmas has turned into an elaborate cabin vacation getaway at the push of a phone button by Kurt. All the great progression Brad and Dusty made turns into regression, and threatens to ruin Christmas and their friendship forever.

If it feels like we just got Daddy’s Home 2 last week, it’s because we did. Technically, this is the same movie give or take as A Bad Moms Christmas, only flipping the genders. Neither sequel should really exist, but Bad Moms 2 at least feels a little more inspired and carries a little more of a good time. The same cannot be said for the sequel to Daddy’s Home. Comparisons or not, this is simply a bad, low-rung comedy.

Nary a plot exists in Daddy’s Home 2. There’s the whole dysfunctional parents and a “will they, won’t they” breakup aspect between Dusty and Brad, but most of the movie’s runtime is comprised of various slapstick moments fluffed with bad writing. For every OK-to-good line of funny dialogue, there seems to be two or three lines plus an unfunny/telegraphed/callback sight gag that fails to do the trick. At least the word “scoff” is used liberally. Par for the course for many of these Christmas movies, the themes of family and forgiveness are prevalent and made to be wrapped up and addressed via a “heartwarming” finale that speaks to the holiday season. It happens so fast, however, that the effect is lost, further speaking to the cash-in feel of the movie.

Returning writer/director Sean Anders (Horrible Bosses 2) had to know this, which is perhaps why the sequel is beefed up with a bigger cast, with Gibson, Lithgow, and John Cena (very underutilized, by the way) of course being the main attractions after Wahlberg and Ferrell. Problem is, there are too many characters for the film to get into a comedic groove. It’s weird, too; it’s hard to really consider Daddy’s Home 2 an ensemble movie, but throw in Gibson, Lithgow, Cena, Ferrell, Wahlberg and Linda Cardellini, Alessandra Ambrosio, and an additional three to four other kids and it just gets to be way too much. Easier to overlook if more of the comedy did the job, which it doesn’t.

 

Most of the coal goes to the script or lack thereof, but that doesn’t mean that the cast is absolved of all holiday sins. Of the cast, Lithgow probably has the best moment or two. Ferrell and Wahlberg have obvious chemistry, but it alone cannot elevate what is present. The other big name in Mel Gibson screams miscast and/or laziness. Mel’s been funny before as the smug, masculine asshole with an underlying heart (see: What Women Want), but that ship likely has sailed, and put more succinctly, there’s no heart at all in his character in Daddy’s Home 2.

What’s left is Gibson spouting annoying insults and statements going on about what makes a man a man. I wonder if the two grandfather roles in Gibson and Lithgow would have made for more comedy if they were flip-flopped and had each actor go against type. He kind of epitomizes another huge problem with the sequel. It’s darker than it needs to be, with two scenes played for laughs yet being more disturbing than intended. As for the rest of the cast, there’s too many of them as previously stated to build comedic chemistry and worthwhile scenes.

And so, enough scoffing been said about Daddy’s Home 2. There are other funnier and heartwarming films about the Christmas time that don’t leave the viewer in a depressed state.

D-

Photo credits go to collider.com, itunes.apple.com, and hellogiggles.com.

For additional detailed thoughts on films both small and large, games, and the key moments that comprise each, check out ThatMomentIn.com

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Daddy’s Home: Movie Man Jackson

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Didn’t Usher make a song about this? Some guys love being fathers more than others, and radio executive Brad Whitaker (Will Ferrell) is one of those guys. After a medical mishap, Brad is unable to give his wife of eight months Sara (Linda Cardellini) any kids, but he has happily taken to being the stepdad to her current ones Megan (Scarlett Estevez) and Dylan (Owen Vaccaro).

It has been a process, but the kids are gradually taking to Brad as their new father figure…until the old father figure Dusty Mayron (Mark Wahlberg) reenters their lives. The two clash instantly as Whitaker’s conservative and mild-mannered personality is an 180 from Mayron’s aggressiveness and brash demeanor. It’s father-on-father war as only one can emerge to be the unequivocal dad.

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Daddy’s Home is no The Other Guys. Comedy is different for many people, but every time yours truly watches that movie, I laugh just as hard as I did the first time, if not harder. TOG is one of my favorite comedies, ever. Daddy’s Home isn’t on the level of that 2010 movie, but, it does have two things that movie had: Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg.

Honestly, what was described before about the film’s plot is it. Definitely not elaborate or innovative, but it provides opportunity for ample laughs. And ample laughs are had. Comedy plots can occasionally suffer from not knowing when to end and going on too long. Credit is given to director Sean Anders, who has penned and/or directed more than a few recent comedies (to some questionable quality) such as Horrible Bosses 2, We’re the Millers, and That’s My Boy to name a few, in providing Daddy’s Home with a well-paced runtime that does not drag near the end. I’d go so far as to say that its climax, with a little heart sprinkled in with “clever” writing, is the high point of the film, as a climax should be. About the only time Anders’ feature plods along is during the 15-25 or so minutes at the beginning. Laughs are a little more sparse early on compared to later points.

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The Other Guys may not be universally loved, but even the detractors would likely have to admit that Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell had a great amount of not just chemistry, but comic chemistry. That chemistry carries over to their latest team-up. Like TOG, Wahlberg’s character is kind of a hothead and Ferrell’s a pushover, but both balance each other out. Ferrell gets the more riotous moments, but Wahlberg’s smugness is hilarity as well.

The only aspect of their chemistry that feels a bit off, and it is probably not their fault, is that they aren’t able to go all the way sometimes. Daddy’s Home is PG-13, and in scenes, there did appear to be some uncertainty as to whether to scale back and focus on the family and feel-goodness, or go all in on the raunchiness. As a young adult, this doesn’t bother me a ton, but I don’t believe this is a family film for youngsters, either, despite it sort of being so thematically. Some families found out the hard way in my theater after overhearing them talk about the content.

Most of the comedy comes from the aforementioned two squaring off, but there is assistance found in supporting players. Sadly, Linda Cardellini’s wife character can be all over the place with her alignment, and the kids are not exactly grating, but do push the limit here and there. On a positive note, Hannibal Buress and Bobby Cannavale bring chuckles in their screentime. But the scene stealer is Thomas Haden Church as Brad’s boss, who has no shame in sharing his unfathomable past love stories in the most deadpan and monotone fashion.

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Daddy’s Home is not at the head of the household of comedies, but Ferrell, Wahlberg and a few others do make a generally funny movie that is pretty hilarious at times and better than its trailer would indicate. It’s one that builds momentum as it moves along, and serves as a nice addition to Ferrell and Wahlberg’s comedy filmography.

Grade: B-

Photo credits go to YouTube.com, and IMDB.com.

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The Gambler: Movie Man Jackson

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“Who wants the world at their feet?” 

If you don’t have the magic, try obtaining it by gambling. Jim Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) is going through a fairly rough patch in his life. His grandfather has passed away, and he has little to nothing in the process. At least he still has his job. By day, Jim Bennett is an associate professor of literature and an occasional writer. By night, he is The Gambler.

Playing the game(s) of odds for so long eventually puts Jim in some hot water. Many parties are owed monetary, and one in particular (Michael K. Williams) has only given Bennett seven days to pay the debt he owes. Factor in a crumbling relationship with his mother (Jessica Lange), and a day job he abhors, and this probably serves as rock bottom. The only thing that provides some cushion is a budding relationship with one of his students (Brie Larson). Still, Jim owes money, and the only way out of these predicaments is *insert cliche tagline* going all in.

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Odds are that if 10 people were polled, no more than five would know that The Gambler is a remake of a 1974 film bearing the same name. 40 years basically between updates essentially makes the new version an original film, right? Right. Unfortunately with the cast present at the table, The Gambler, whether remembered as a remake or not, fails to cash in on the potential.

Even if the story was a major letdown (and it is), at the very least, this could have been a mildly entertaining character study of sorts as it pertained to Jim Bennett. With an effort made to flesh out some backstory to Bennett, the investment had by the audience would likely be firmer as the danger escalates. But director Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) incorrectly gambles by choosing not to build the character. It is almost as if he expects that just because Bennett is in unfavorable situations, that is enough to care. Looking from the outside, his life really isn’t all that terrible. Maybe not ideal, obviously, but everyone has problems. Those that Bennett has fall under the “first world” variety in yours truly’s eyes.

However, credit is given to Wyatt for constructing what feels like a shady underbelly of a gambling ring. The places the characters inhabit and frequent are grungy, smoky, concealed, and filled with no good whatsoever. Even if the story amounts to nothing, at least a jackpot is hit on the setting as well as the soundtrack heard in various scenes.

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Looking like a cross between a shorter Jim Morrison and Tom Cruise in Vanilla Sky, Mark Wahlberg is the lead here as Jim Bennett. He gives an interesting, if a little uneven, performance to say the least. There are moments, especially as the movie goes on, where Wahlberg is totally in command of the material he is given. For every one of these moments however, there are moments where the work Wahlberg turns in isn’t completely bad, but it does feel like he is struggling with it.

Thespians act; it is their job to portray any and all kinds of people and personalities without a hiccup. But, some are just easier to buy as a particular character. As a professor of literature, Marky Mark is hard to buy. It is clear that he took it seriously; he even sat in on college classes in an effort to try and nail this side of Jim Bennett, but it is average at best. He tries his darnedest, but seeing and hearing Wahlberg spouting about literary devices, why people aren’t brilliant, and why he is is actually quite comical, and it is all delivered in sort of a hammy way. Unintentionally perhaps, these instances do interject some energy in a flick largely absent of it.

Adding to the movie’s issues, Wahlberg’s Bennett is kind of a jerk and an ass. He is the type of guy who likes to hear himself talk. 80% of the time has a comeback for everything, and only 5% of the time it is mildly amusing. His quips, attitude, and the way he treated others made me side with the baddies, or at least see where they are coming from. This isn’t a Wahlberg issue, it is just an issue with writing. A goody-two shoes wasn’t expected, but it is very difficult to side with Jim at all here.

Film Review The Gambler

Flanking Wahlberg is a throng of others notables names, from John Goodman to Jessica Lange. Goodman never seems to have huge parts, but those parts that he does have he always maximizes them and makes something memorable, and the trend continues here. Also in a small role appears Lange, as Jim’s mother. Yours truly may not have cared for the main character, but there was care for his mother and their relationship, thanks to Lange and her brief work.

Also of note is Michael K. Williams as the film’s true villain. Even if his role is just an average bookie, he brings tangible screen presence and an accompanying edge. And finally, Brie Larson holds her own as Jim’s love interest, but her and Wahlberg never truly click which makes their “union” unrealistic, even more so when the fact is they go from zero to 100 real quick with hardly any indication. It just happens.

Like the moment before the flop cards are shown before a game of poker, The Gambler is filled with potential; the belief that “this is going to be a good one” before the cards are seen. It isn’t until the reveal when it is realized the movie hand that has been dealt just isn’t a winning one.

Grade: D

Photo credits go to Time.com, geeknation.com, and moviepilot.com.

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Four Brothers: Movie Man Jackson

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“You keep knocking on the devil’s door long enough and sooner or later someone’s gonna answer you.”

Whether bound by blood or unconventionally, the bond between most brothers is unbreakable. In Four Brothers, Evelyn Mercer is a kind-hearted and warm elderly woman who has done a lot in her Detroit inner city community by helping to find homes to young delinquents, or in some cases, taking them in herself. While at a convenience store one late November snowy night, the store is held up by two gangsters who demand money. After getting the cash, the two lowlifes shoot the store owner and the only witness, Evelyn, to death at point blank range.

Evelyn’s death compels her adopted son, Bobby Mercer (Mark Wahlberg) to come back to Detroit to attend her funeral. While back, he reunites with his other adopted brothers, Jack Mercer (Garrett Hedlund), Jeremiah Mercer (Andre Benjamin), and later Angel Mercer (Tyrese Gibson). They all are different men, but they are all tied by Evelyn, and spent a good amount of their formative years under Evelyn’s care when no one else would take them in. Obviously, this makes her death really personal. As expected, the local police led by Terrence Howard think they have the case all solved, but there is many layers to this seemingly random murder. Eventually, the brothers launch their own investigation, which will lead them down a long and cold hard road to vengeance.

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A very loose remake/retelling of the 1965 western The Sons of Katie Elder, Four Brothers is a solid if at times clunky addition to the revenge/vigilante subgenre of films. If there is no previous existing interest for these types of films on your end, look elsewhere. Upon first viewing, the film will probably play out as envisioned, as most revenge films do. But, there is enough here to not feel completely rote. Truth be told, it is a good effort by the writers to have a few different threads going on that link to the main plot, but it would have been better if the film played it a little more “straight.” So while there is a bit more than the movie can chew at times, it never loses the central focus that the characters have in avenging their mother.

Four Brothers works mostly because of the characters. They are all interesting, fairly likable, and possess a surprising amount of depth in my opinion for this type of movie. Mark Wahlberg playing the hothead and bad-ass Bobby Mercer is not really a stretch for him, but as the lead, his performance is good. As the youngest brother, Garrett Hedlund as Jack Mercer flexes the most acting muscle. He is the most vulnerable and probably the person the audience will feel for and connect with the most.

The other two brothers are portrayed by Andre Benjamin (Andre 3000 of Outkast fame) and Tyrese Gibson, otherwise just known as Tyrese, the smooth R&B crooner. You would think that these two would be the weakest links, and while their characters are not as complex as Garrett Hedlund’s, they do not look out of place on camera. Both had prior experience before this movie, and by Hollywood’s standards, they have transitioned pretty well to the silver screen.

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Terrence Howard, Josh Charles, and Taraji P. Henson are also featured in this film, and do as you would expect, though it is cool to see some of the actors like Henson be here before they really took off. And while her time is short, the woman cast as the slain mother deserves credit as well. It is not easy to connect with an audience in such a short amount of screen time, but what she brought to the role made me want to see the brothers exact revenge on the perpetrators. But the man with some real meat to his character aside from the main guys is easily Chiwetel Ejiofor. His role in this film is significantly different from his work in 12 Years a Slave, but it is really critical and anytime he is on screen, his magnetism is evident.

The movie is technically an action and crime thriller, but you would never know that it is also a comedy until the viewing. Most of it is intentional and comes as a result of the simple banter (largely improvised mostly) among brothers, which is necessary to buy into this brotherhood dynamic. At times however, the humorous tone does come off as somewhat inconsistent, mainly when the brothers are off on their investigation. Depending on who you are, this may irk you more than it did me, but it is prevalent enough to mention.

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Director John Singleton has a few highly respectable credits to his directorial work such as Boyz in the Hood, Higher Learning, and even Baby Boy. This movie is not on par with the first two listed, but for one of his few “Hollywood” films, it is pretty competent. There is nothing dazzling done behind the camera, but there are two scenes (car chase, shootout) that seize attention. While mostly filmed in Canada, the movie never looks like it was filmed anywhere but Detroit.

Shot mostly in snowy settings, it does carry feelings of fleeting hope and harsh reality. And as touched upon earlier, this is a movie at the very least inspired by a Western, and after watching a second time, it does have a pronounced old-school feel to it. The soundtrack lends itself to this sentiment as well, as most of it is comprised of Motown classics and it ultimately gives the movie a retro feel.

Though flawed at times in tone and story strands, Four Brothers is still a pretty entertaining film that slots into the revenge subgenre nicely. If revenge films are a viewing pleasure from time to time, much worse could be done.

Grade: B-

Photo Credits to movieguide.org, aceshowbiz.com, and joblo.com

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