REVIEW: “DADDY’S HOME 2” (2017) PARAMOUNT PICTURES

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Well hang up your christmas stockings and get your eggnog ready as we are headed into the holidays, and that means the family holiday movies are starting up. With the trailer for “DADDY’S HOME 2”, as with most comedies these days, giving away many of the funny moments, no need to expect any additional spoilers here.

As for the film itself – we pick up two years later, after the fierce daddy competition between Brad (Will Ferrell) and Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) had throughout the first film. We start off sweetly, with what looks to be a very healthy co-dad environment for all involved. In comedy-based cinema, the best way to disrupt a happy family synergy is to introduce the Christmas season and the sure-to-follow family turmoil. And with that – enter Mel Gibson as Dusty’s estranged dad – Kurt, and John Lithgow as Brad’s so-close-it’s-too-close dad – Don… and let the holiday escapades begin.

It’s clear that these two grandads have completely different ideas of well, being grandads. Gibson’s character’s idea of being a father has been around for many generations. Toughen up the kids and make sure they are strong and independent. Keep those emotions close to the vest. On the other side is John Lithgow and his over-hugging and blubbering true feelings approach. The familiar supporting cast, (notably missing Griff (Hannibal Buress)) holds up their end admirably. Sara (Linda Cardellini) and Alessandra Ambrosio as Karen, are back as Brad’s and Dusty’s wives, respectively. Scarlett Estevez, Owen Vaccaro, and Didi Costine are back as the kids: Megan, Dylan & Adrianna – each with their own quirks and growing pains. Even John Cena returns as Adrianna’s biological father – Roger, and also delivers one of the film’s best punchlines, as well as a bit that might forever ruin Christmas caroling for you or maybe like me, where I thought it was actually simply sweet.

With the additions of Gibson and Cena, the sequel ups the ante on the debate of masculinity that anchored the first film. The female characters are still seemly just afterthoughts, and some of Gibson’s antics (considering his rep and the current revelations coming out of Hollywood) seem awkwardly ill-timed. He makes inappropriate jokes, he makes sexist jokes about hookers, he laughs at nearly everything stupid Ferrell does.

Could I slam this film for having Mel Gibson in it..yes I completely could, and legitimately so because honestly, it doesn’t flow well with me on a personal level. Neither does when trying to make light of kids with shotguns or using them as props to getting drunk. It’s not. Especially in light of everything going on here now. But if you step away from that, this film was also a bit on the sappy-sweeter, emotional side than the original ‘DADDY’S HOME’ (which I thought was NOT appropriate for kids) for me and that’s what redeemed it. This one – if they are over the age of 12 or 13, yes, as I think back to my 12 or 13 year old self, and would be okay with it.

Grade: C
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Media Review Screening: Tuesday, November 7, 2017 ~ Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
“DADDY’S HOME 2” will be released in theaters nationwide on Friday, November 10, 2017

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REVIEW: “DADDY’S HOME” (2015) Paramount Pictures

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In this the second collaboration between Wahlberg and Ferrell, “Daddy’s Home” gives us Brad Whitaker (Will Ferrell), a mild-mannered radio executive who is trying his damndest to become the best stepdad to his new wife Sara’s (Linda Cardenelli) two children. But some big complications are coming his way when their fun, free-wheeling, free-loading real father Dusty Mayron (Mark Wahlberg) arrives, forcing Brad to compete for the affection of the kids.
At this point is of course where the fun starts as father and step-father challenge and begin competing with one another for the love of their children for the position of being called “Dad”.
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The film spends its first ten minutes working to establish Brad as a character, as the over-eager, almost irritatingly, sincere step-father who found himself left impotent after a dental mishap. In contrast, we have Dusty Mayron. Dusty is Sara’s ex-husband and the biological father to Brad’s two step-children. Dusty is an eccentric larger-than-life type of guy, basically the walking and talking embodiment of all of Brad’s insecurities he seems to swagger around with his own soundtrack of AC/DC’s Thunderstruck playing in the background.
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Sara is the mother who watches as both these men in her life engage in a rapidly escalating game of one-upmanship to win the love of her children and while she is completely wise to what is going on and doesn’t try to stop it, she plays against neither character.

The supporting cast – The wonderfully accented fertility specialist Dr. Francisco (Bobby Canavale); Thomas Haden Church as Leo Holt, Brad’s boss, is as always sheer comedy gold. Taking me back to his WINGS days here with his delivery of stories and one-liners. And the man who seriously MUST re-consider his lively-hood in the pro-wrestling arena and become the hysterical supporting actor in every comedy film made.. John Cena. Hannibal Buress as Griff, the handyman extraordinaire, all do well, but director Sean Anders does struggle somewhat to keep the laughs coming.
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While I had a few really good belly laughs at this one – take note- it’s not a kids movie as even the littliest of kids swears some, it’s PG-13 rating is true to form here. All in all, Daddy’s Home has a solid premise and a talented cast. It just doesn’t manage to do much with either.

Grade: C-
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Review Screening: Saturday, December 19, 2015 ~ Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
Nationwide release: Friday, December 25, 2015

“GET HARD” (2015) ~ Warner Bros.

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I didn’t go into this screening with magically high hopes for a genius comedy here, I think you know from the trailer that’s not what you’re going to get, but I was looking for a few laughs. And it completely delivers on that aspect as that’s pretty much exactly what you get ~ ‘a few laughs’ ~ but then you can probably guess that from the trailer also.

So the best way for me to possibly describe Get Hard is to call it a socially acceptable racial observation humor disguised as a buddy flick. We’ve seen this formula before in comedies that worked really well like Blazing Saddles, Stir Crazy or 48 Hours. All funny movies..but time has made the landscape different nowadays and I hear the movie is getting some backlash for this exact reason. Basically the movie looks at how different races and social classes perceive each other through the eyes of stereotypical white, black & hispanic characters. The only thing I can say is just relax and realize this is just supposed to be entertainment not a social study on life today and if you can’t do that, which I understand also, then this probably isn’t the film you should go see.

We start off with Will Ferrell as “James King” an ultra rich stock broker who is engaged to his boss’ “Martin” (Craig T. Nelson) daughter “Alissa” (Allison Brie). Everything in life is going swimmingly for him it seems, that is until James is arrested for multiple counts of fraud ala Bernie Madoff. Unlike Madoff, James is actually completely innocent and as he refuses to take a plea deal, he ends up with a maximum sentence of ten years in San Quentin State Prison with the Judge giving him thirty days to settle all his affairs. Knowing that he has a huge probability of something happening to him in jail, he hires the only black guy he knows, “Darnell” the guy who washes his car played by Kevin Hart. James also just assumes Darnell has been to prison just because he’s black, but because Darnell needs the money to move into a new house, he just follows along with this line of thinking as it looks like an easy street to get the money he needs. Darnell now has less than thirty days to get James prepared for the next ten years of his life in prison..but remember it’s a life he really knows nothing about having truthfully never been to jail or even gotten so much as a parking ticket.

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The movie is filled with quite a few outrageous and somewhat memorable scenes mostly involving the ‘prison training’ of Ferrell’s character King. The movie starts with Ferrell’s ass in your face and it never backs down at trying to be funny (key word = trying), though a lot of it is oh-so-obligatory comedy rounds. I don’t want to spoil any of the funny scenes, as they are mostly during the first half of the film with one scene in particular that did have almost everyone (including me) gut laughing in their seats. But after that, I mostly just did a lot of eye-rolling at how just bad & dumb some of it really was.

The biggest fault of Get Hard is that it was completely & utterly predictable. The moment Ferrell is sentenced to jail, it was quite obvious why he was arrested in the first place. The movie did have one or two original scenes/situations, but they were also pretty much by the ‘comedy’ book with the once again obligatory cliched moments of stereotypical racial and gay jokes. We all get it, all rich white people think blacks are criminals and gay people all meet up in public to give each other oral sex..blah blah blah..
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The one highlight for me was that Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart really DO work fantastically together. I’m not going to lie, but I wasn’t expecting much from this movie but what absolutely makes this movie work even somewhat is due to the performances of Ferrell and Hart. Not that these guys aren’t funny..but let’s be truthful, both of them have played the same character over & over in most of their last few films. They thankfully went against some of their usual schtick of Hart screaming everything & the “Kevin Hart short jokes” which are just tired, were barely acknowledged As usual, Will Ferrell is a lunatic. He goes all out being over the top, but not in an obnoxious way. Hart is more of a straight man to Ferrell and that to me, is what made this relationship work well. T.I. as Darnell’s cousin “Russell” also does a quick turn here as leader of the ‘Crenshaw Kings’ whom Darnell comes to for advice and James actually tries to join when he shows them legit stock market tips and gets the street name moniker of ‘Mayo’ in a couple of fun, lighter moments.
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I wouldn’t say that Get Hard is anything close to rip-roaring, gut-busting hilarious, nor is it trying to reinvent the comedy wheel..but it has it’s funny moments and if you are fans of either Ferrell or Hart and looking to kill an hour and a half or so at the movies, then you will be fine. But go in with an open mind because remember, it’s just supposed to be comedy not a discussion of social problems and if you can go in with that mindset, I think it does what it sets out to do and that’s try to make people laugh.

Grade: C
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(See grading scale)