This family reunion comes with a dose of holiday hijinks — and some extra baggage.
Will Ferrell’s new comedy, “Daddy’s Home 2,” centers around his overly earnest character Brad Whitaker co-existing with his wife’s rough-and-tough ex-husband Dusty Mayron (played by Mark Wahlberg), until drama ensues when their respective fathers come to town for Christmas.
The film features a controversial cast addition in Mel Gibson, who stars in his first family comedy in over a decade after his infamous 2006 drunk-driving arrest and anti-Semitic rant, followed by audio of hateful tirades against an ex-girlfriend that was released four years later.
Gibson, who plays Dusty’s bad-boy father, Kurt, in the new film, has slowly returned to Hollywood after a lengthy hiatus from mainstream moviemaking, notably starring in the 2014 thriller “The Expendables 3” and directing the Oscar-nominated war drama “Hacksaw Ridge” last year. Ferrell believes viewers will embrace seeing Gibson, 61, in a different type of role.
“He’s going to open audiences’ eyes with how great he is in comedy,” Ferrell told the New York Daily News.
“I think this was kind of a fun thing for him to step outside, be on camera after having an absence for a while, and also (doing) a family, PG-13 comedy was something he hasn’t really done,” he said. “I think if he chooses to do more of that, he’s going to be more than back.”
The “Daddy’s Home” sequel — due out Friday — hits theaters a little under two years after the original, which introduced Ferrell’s character as the goofy, excessively upbeat step-father to Dusty’s two children.
Ferrell — whose father is played by John Lithgow — didn’t originally anticipate making a sequel, but after the success of the first “Daddy’s Home,” he decided he was on board as long as they came up with a worthwhile storyline featuring the right characters.
“We really wanted to see someone come down the escalator like a Mel Gibson, and without even saying a word of dialogue, you knew, ‘Oh, this is why Dusty acts the way he acts,’” Ferrell explains. “And the same with John and why I’m so touchy-feely, and open with my feelings, and positive parenting and things like that.”
The movie is the latest co-starring vehicle for Ferrell and Wahlberg, who first delighted audiences as unlikely police partners in the 2009 comedy “The Other Guys” before revisiting their odd-couple dynamic in the original “Daddy’s Home.”
The secret to their rapport, Ferrell believes, stems from their abilities to make their characters feel as real as possible.
“When we first started of thinking of Mark for ‘The Other Guys,’ it just started making us laugh, the idea of Mark and I together,” Ferrell said. “You wouldn’t ever picture it. Him always — for the most part — playing the tough guy … up against my kind of plain, everyman thing I’ve been able to corner the market on.
“It’s proven to work really well, and Mark is as adept a comedian as he is a dramatic actor.”
In addition to starring in a long list of classic comedies — including “Anchorman,” “Step Brothers” and “Talladega Nights” — Ferrell has helped write and produce many movies, including some he doesn’t appear in.
He was originally slated to produce a female-led comedy called “Plus One” that was picked up by The Weinstein Company three years ago, but the project ultimately fell through. The movie’s cancellation had nothing to do with the sexual misconduct scandal swirling around Harvey Weinstein, and Ferrell says he was not aware of the allegations surrounding the Hollywood producer before they emerged last month.
“I have to honestly say I’d never heard stories to this extent,” Ferrell said. “It’s obviously horrible, and I’m glad everyone is feeling safe enough to come forward with their experiences. It goes without saying that none of that behavior is acceptable.”
Although Ferrell plays a father figure in “Daddy’s Home 2,” he acknowledges he’s not as over-the-top around his real kids as Brad is in the movie. Ferrell, 50, is starting to allow his 13-year-old son Magnus to watch some of the more raunchy comedies he’s starred in, though he still limits what younger sons Mattias, 10, and Axel, 7, can see.
Regardless, the Ferrell kids are fans of their father’s comedy style.
“They love their ‘Family Guy,’ and they love Adam Sandler, and they love this movie and that movie,” Ferrell said. “I think they’re like, ‘You’re good too Dad, you’re good too.’ So as long as they’re not like, ‘Dad, that was not funny. What are you doing man?’ — as long as I kind of stay in the top ten with them, I’ll take it.”
His sons visited the “Daddy’s Home 2” set while Ferrell was filming a particularly memorable scene that involves him kissing Lithgow on the lips when they meet at the airport. The scene took all day to perfect, and they ultimately recorded at least 30 takes, which Ferrell says left his sons “laughing and embarrassed the whole time.”
“For some reason, we kept doing it off camera as well, just to try and make Mark laugh,” Ferrell recalls. “So we kept kissing all day long. I’m not afraid to admit that.”
‘Daddy’s Home 2’
Rated PG-13 for suggestive material and some language
Running time: 100 minutes
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