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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The House: Movie Man Jackson

Welcome to their house. Scott and Kate Johansen (Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler) are two good parents who have a lot to be proud of. Their daughter, Alex (Ryan Simpkins), has been accepted into the prestigious Bucknell University. And the best thing about it is that she happens to be a straight-A student, a virtual lock for the town’s full ride scholarship.

At least, that’s what they thought, until city councilman Nick Kroll takes away her award immediately upon granting it to her, claiming “budget cuts” as the reason. After an unfruitful trip to Las Vegas with friend Frank (Jason Mantzoukas) to win the money needed to support Alex’s college bills, the three concoct a plan to raise her money by running an underground casino in Frank’s home. The House always wins, but the house also attracts unwanted clientele that can make life very miserable for the Johansens.

Does Hollywood have a mid/big-budget comedy problem? Obviously, the genre is the most subjective there is—one person’s laughing trash is another’s laughing treasure. Still, since 22 Jump Street and possibly Trainwreck, there hasn’t been that big pure comedy that audiences and critics agree upon and flock in droves to see and spend money on. Even with the comedy stalwarts in Ferrell and Poehler, The House, proven by its box office results as of this writing, definitely isn’t that comedy.

Any enjoyment of The House may likely come down to how much one enjoys the typical antics of Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler. A good chunk of their interactions, both together and with others, appear to be improvised, for better and for worse. Out of the two, Ferrell delivers more consistently with the laughs; two running gags involve his character struggling with the most basic of math problems and channeling a dark alter ego known as “The Butcher.” Still, both have been better before.

It’s probably Mantzoukas who has the best parts tied to his character. His total arc comes up pretty flat, but he absolutely steals scenes as the gambling addict Frank, the divorcee trying to win back his love by…running a casino. Nick Kroll is amusing playing the shady councilman, but others in the cast are pretty worthless, even Alex, who the story is supposed to revolve around.

The House suffers from predictability. This isn’t a bad thing in of itself—especially in a comedy—but when the jokes are folding at the table, it can be. Additionally, The House takes a long time to set up the opposition, often shifting between villains in its last act. The SNL skit feeling is hard to escape when watching. First-time director Andrew J. Cohen (writer of Neighbors) makes a basic, standard-looking feature that takes story and scene inspiration from Casino. Nothing shoddy or praiseworthy particularly stands out.

And ultimately, that last sentence sums up The House pretty succinctly. It’s an average hand in a genre in desperate need of a flush.

C

Photo credits go to theplaylist.net, movpins.com, and slashfilm.com. Article credit to Variety.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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A Deadly Adoption: Movie Man Jackson

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You know the dangers of diabetic ketoacidosis!

That poster is one of the greatest things I have ever seen. In A Deadly Adoption, successful author Robert Benson (Will Ferrell), and local business owner spouse Sarah Benson (Kristen Wiig) are trying to find solace years after a tragedy. This tragedy has caused a once jovial and lighthearted Robert to become more distant in the relationship.

Both agree, however, that the best remedy would be to add another child to the family. Unfortunately, Sarah cannot conceive after her first daughter Sully (Alyvia Alyn Lind), and as such, an outside party must be brought in. Enter Bridgette (Jessica Lowndes), a six-month pregnant young woman living in an unstable situation. Feeling sorry for her, the couple invites her into their home to stay with them during the final trimester. She appears to be the perfect carrier for their new addition, but she harbors an unbelievable dark secret that will put everyone in danger.

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So, I guess this is why was exposed to so many Lifetime movies growing up. Thanks for Stalking Laura Mom, that will always have a place in my heart if you’re reading this. Lifetime movies are just different than other movies, but they aren’t that different among themselves. Generally, their plots consists of some life-changing moment/event where someone or something has to readjust to things and/or deal with a situation that gets worse and worse while fighting for their name and/or family. Sometimes they are “true stories. “Almost all of them have some type of title that is a blunt descriptor of what the movie will entail, such as Cyberstalker and Intimate Stranger. A Deadly Adoption is really no different, a Lifetime movie through and through.

What does happen to be different is the lead talent that appears here. The buzz that this film has garnered is easily attributed to Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig appearing in it. While many people have used satire and spoof to describe A Deadly Adoption, parody feels more fitting. Wiig and Ferrell choose not to display the comedic stylings that most know them for, and that may disappoint viewers to decide to take a stab at this.

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The real joke present is the idea that there really isn’t one. Yes, there are one or two times, mainly in the final act, where the comedy is less straight-laced, but even that is somewhat subtle. Director Rachel Goldenberg, Ferrell, and Wiig all choose to simply do what has been done before, without shattering the fourth wall. All are great, but Ferrell especially nails it. He still has this look about him where it makes it almost impossible not to crack up even while doing the most mundane of tasks, all while wearing a terrible pasty beard. And it is absolutely glorious.

Perhaps the only flaw that exists would be that to get the full effect, one has to be somewhat familiar of Lifetime and many of its film tropes. Not that it still cannot be entertaining, but this is clearly made for viewers who are aware of the network’s brand. The execution is so deftly handled that Lifetime viewers who have never heard of Wiig and Farrell will just see this as the standard movie of the week, and others who have heard of the famous leads but unaware of Lifetime’s style may get bored. From the overly melodramatic score, to the way the camera lingers and positions itself on subjects and characters, and the cliched ending, this is a bad movie. But it is intentional, without being that fact over the head.

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As bizarre and unlikely it is to say of a Lifetime production, A Deadly Adoption is one of more memorable films yours truly has seen in a while, and I can only imagine how it would have been had it been released as intended with no fanfare. This will not be for everyone, but for anyone who has seen their share of the network’s movies or looking for a muted parody, what better way to honor the 25th anniversary of Lifetime movies by giving this a watch?

Grade: A-

Photo credits go to movieweb.com, blogs.wsj.com, usmagazine.com, and feedpile.net.

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Get Hard: Movie Man Jackson

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“No, you made me hard!”

Let’s Go to Prison, or at least prepare to do so. Big time businessman James King (Will Ferrell) has it all: The money, the mansion, the sexpot fiance (Alison Brie), and the support of his soon-to-be wife’s father Martin (Craig T. Nelson), who is also his boss. Simply, he is living life like a king.

That is, until the feds come to his home at an engagement party to arrest him on counts of fraud and embezzlement. James is going into lockup, but not at one of these home-away-from home type joints like Martha Stewart was in. He is being sentenced to do his bid in San Quentin, one of the worst, if not the worst, prisons to do time in. Given 30 days to get his stuff in order, James needs to learn how to survive inside, to Get Hard for what is in store. Where does he turn to? His car washer Darnell Lewis (Kevin Hart), because statistics have taught James that one in three black men have served or are serving time, and Darnell must be one of them. Taking James’ stupidity and exploiting it for financial gain, Darnell agrees to prep him, despite having never been incarcerated.

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The trailers for Get Hard should easily give one an idea as to what the movie is going to consist of, which are laughs primarily based around racism (overt and covert), hip-hop culture, and an endless barrage of male sexual organ jokes. Even without seeing the trailers, just seeing the title and the two stars headlining this movie probably gives the idea as well. Funny in places but not consistently for yours truly, Get Hard is a middling black-white comedy.

Even with its blunt title, in a alternate universe it isn’t hard to envision this comedy saying a little bit more than it ultimately does about race in society, the Horatio Alger myth, and things of that nature. For the first 15 or so minutes, this “analysis,” if you will, looks like it may happen. Director Etan Cohen, not to be confused with Ethan Coen, is very clear to point out the haves and have nots, and the way he shoots the opening of the movie with the contrasting locales of inner-city LA and Bel-Air makes it seem desperately like he wants to say something substantial about issues affecting the world today. But something is missing, something like Trading Places, like the brilliant Wesley Morris alludes to, has. And, as Dan the Man states, it is hard to put a finger to say what exactly it should be doing, but the feeling cannot be shook that it wants to say more, but perhaps doesn’t know how.

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All of this is to say that Get Hard ends up feeling stretched out with the story as it is, which until the last 20 minutes in which it transforms into a buddy cop-ish affair, is essentially Hart’s character running Farrell’s character through various situations he is likely to see in prison, from rape defense to riots. Some are funnier than others, but a few of the moments run too long.

There’s a fine line between tolerable and overkill, and scenes that reach the overkill stage include Hart impersonating a Black, Hispanic, and gay prison member for what seems like an eternity, and a mission where Ferrell’s James has to learn how to perform fellatio in a bathroom stall. If cut in half, these comedic scenes may have had more potency. Instead, they just become awkward the longer they go on.

The writing and scene structure could use some work, but Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart deserve credit for making it work the best they can. Sometimes making it work here means going off of the cuff and playing off of each other. Initially, I had a skepticism about whether Hart and Ferrell would work together, and I can’t definitely say why I felt this way. Truth be told, the two meld nicely, and future collaborations can be imagined. Sure, there are the aforementioned times where the seemingly unscripted dialogue goes on too long, and some one-liners are painfully weak, but that isn’t an indictment on how well they work together. Slightly off-tangent, but for whatever reason, there’s something about Ferrell and the certain looks he gives off that still manages to get some laughs after all of these years.

It is up to Ferrell and Hart to carry this, but for the short time he is on screen, rapper T.I. is a nice supplement to the duo. He’s the stereotypical drug dealer and gang banger as Russell, which, based on T.I.’s real life upbringing, is hardly a stretch. But, to paraphrase Ferrell’s character’s when describing Russell to Hart’s character, “he is just so damn charismatic.” Craig T. Nelson and Alison Brie are present as well, but aside from a opening scene, Brie is forgotten and Nelson could have been played by anyone.

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As stated before, there’s an alternate universe where Get Hard uses its two stars to make a wonderful, hilarious satire on society and its inequality problems. There’s also an alternate universe where Get Hard is completely abysmal. In this universe, Get Hard is an alright comedy that isn’t limp, but not a raging stiff either. Consider it a semi.

Grade: C-

Photo credits go to upi.com, aroundmovies.com, and theonlinelist.com.

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