Review: Daddy’s Home 2

I swear John Cena was supposed to be in this film somewhere?

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2015’s Daddy’s Home felt like a cut-and-paste job from director Sean Anders. He most likely watched The Other Guys (2010), saw the chemistry between Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell, and thought he could do the same. So thats what he did. The exact same.

It was a functioning comedy that got enough laughs to not be totally written off — the $250 million box office return agrees with that — but Anders milked the basic concept of having an alpha and a beta male try to work together until long after the teat ran dry.

In Daddy’s Home 2, Anders did what any comedy writer with few ideas and grand aspirations would do; add even more exagerrated A-List characters in the hopes that lightening will strike the same spot twice. Like so many bad comedy films, the sequel is worse and this is no different.

After a school show where one of the children says how she doesn’t like Christmas because she can’t spend it with everyone she loves, the co-dads decide to have a big Christmas altogether. Both Brad (Will Ferrell) and Dusty’s (Mark Wahlberg) fathers are coming too. As luck would have it they will be arriving on the same day, at the same airport, at the same terminal, at the same time, and will walk down the escalator just long enough apart to have a proper introduction of one before the other. How about that!

The first to appear is Kurt, Dusty’s ladies man of a father, played by Mel Gibson. In every scene his character appears, Gibson creates a humour vacuum. It was as if every word he spoke was a drop of vitriol onto my eyes, an uncontrollably painful experience that you desperately want to end. One of the first lines for Kurt when he sees his grandchildren is a joke about dead hookers, and it doesn’t get better from there.

Brad’s father Jonah was, however, played by an ever-charasmatic John Lithgow. Even softer than Brad, he has some genuinely heartfelt scenes throughout the film, but each one is ruined by limp jokes. It briefly touches on loneliness after a long-term marriage ends, but Anders doesn’t have the ‘cahones’ to explore these ideas in any depth, which was mightily disappointing.

The biggest aspect of the film I took issue with was Mel Gibson’s character, and in particular his lines. Now I am a firm believer of separating the art from the artist. I believe that we should be able to enjoy a film for what it is and not shun it because of the actions of one out of the hundreds of people working on it. Yet Mel Gibson’s character makes a joke about violence against women and that left a sour taste in my mouth.

Previously Gibson has been in the spotlight for anti-Semitic and racist comments as well as confessing to beating his girlfriend while she was holding their baby daughter. As a result of this many people refuse to see Gibson’s films and I respect their right to do that, but it is unsurprising that he still gets cast in blockbuster movies. To watch as he jokes about the very things he did, things he still shows no remorse for, is disgusting.

The final scene sparked anger in me too, however nowhere near that same level. Both halves of the family naturally break apart and then unwittingly meet back up at a cinema on Christmas. There is an acapella group on a little stage that Brad interrupts to make a grand speech about how cinemas are the place to go with people you love and to meet new people, to rekindle his families relationships.

The speech seems to win over everyone in the lobby, making them forget about the fact not two minutes before they watched an incestuous kiss as one of the children kisses another. It wins over the cinema staff too who start handing out free chocolate and drinks. I thought I’d seen a lot of unrealistic moments in film but this really takes the cake.

Review: Only the Brave

The story of the most deadly event for US firefighters since 9/11

The Yarnell Hill Fire was the deadliest incident for US firefighters since the September 11 attacks. 19 brave men of the Granite Mountain Hotshots lost their lives protecting the homes and lives of a countless more. Joseph Kosinski, whose previous works include the innovate yet ill-received Oblivion, takes on this devastating story and the result is devastating in equal measure. Out of the 20 firefighters from the City of Prescott, Arizona who went to tackle the wildfire, only one returned.

That man, Brendan McDonough, is played by Miles Teller. The only wildfire he tackles initially is the one destroying his life. He gets kicked out of his mother’s house after a slew of bad decisions; his addiction to heroin, his arrest for theft and his discovery of an ex-girlfriend’s pregnancy. Now at rock bottom, he decides to follow the straight and narrow to support and provide for his child. The quest for employment takes him to the headquarters of the Prescott Fire Department when he hears of two open slots on their team.

McDonough’s reputation as a burnout preceded him and the firefighters almost laugh him out until the boss (Josh Brolin), known affectionately as Supe, decides to give him a chance. Although lacking the strength or stamina to keep up with the pack he eventually completes the test and gets a space in the crew. Teller’s portrayal of an addict is remarkable, showing that there is still much we haven’t seen from him.

As this arc develops we follow another simultaneously. Supe’s wife Amanda (Jennifer Connelly) wakes up to find her husband packing up his gear, the call to arms sounded, and asks to resolve their previous night’s fight before he goes. During the conversation, she mentions that she has a love for lost causes. This embodies her whole story, from the broken dishwasher, to her occupation of caring for horses that would otherwise be put down, to her longing to start a family with a husband who does not share her ambition.

The theme of this lack of family and loneliness in Amanda’s life is especially evocative when juxtaposed with the brotherhood that the firefighters have. As they battle blazes the necessity of tight bonds is what keeps them alive and if just one man fails out on the line, he risks the lives of them all. Kosinski puts this love front and centre without it becoming overly macho. The banter and practical jokes never feel exaggerated and, excluding their chiseled physique, they are relatable.

One of these crew members, the principal prankster, becomes McDonough’s best friend and roommate. Taylor Kitsch who plays Chris MacKenzie does a marvelous job and frankly, it’s the first role in which the character he plays is even memorable. The pseudo-homosexual relationships between the two roommates, especially when they have McDonough’s baby for the night, don’t feel out of place, rather a natural extension of their bonds.

This is the latest entry into what seems to be the latest craze sweeping Hollywood. To choose a tragedy, namely one that happens in America or to Americans, and recreate it using a lot of CGI and special effects. The market for war films seems to have diminished slightly in the past few years but producers have been quick to replace them with these. Only the Brave is a fantastic example of a tragedy film done right and regardless of slight pacing issues and an at times flat dialogue there is an underlying message that is deeply affecting, especially in the final scenes.

They are playing a dangerous game however by choosing tragedies that have occurred closer and closer to the present day. The real Yarnell Hill Fire took place in 2013 meaning it only took four more for the film to reach the cinema. Similarly, the Boston Bombings happened four years ago and now has two blockbuster films about it. While this undoubtedly has something to say beyond theatrics I strongly believe making films based on events still tender in our hearts and minds is exploitative and I hope focus shifts to scripts that place those tragedies into a fictional world.