by Vicky Roach
WILL Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg are a naturally funny fit.
In their third film together (after Daddy's Home and The Other Guys), however, there was a danger that the screen partnership might be getting a little too comfortable.
So the filmmakers have introduced a double dose of cross-generational conflict to give the Christmas comedy extra edge.
Daddy's Home 2 might almost be described as a masculine variation on the recently released Bad Moms sequel in which interfering grandmas upset the delicate festive equilibrium.
John Lithgow embraces the role of Ferrell's uber-wimp of a father so enthusiastically he almost outdoes his precociously PC progeny.
Ferrell's commitment to the character of supersensitive stay-at-home stepdad, Brad, is absolute.
The comedian is a master of the masochistic pratfall.
Brad is almost electrocuted when he sucks up the outdoor Christmas lights in a snow blower.
And the character actually has to be resuscitated after accidentally cutting down a tree that supports a mobile phone tower.
Now that he's successfully co-parenting with his ex-wife's new partner, Walhberg's former bad boy, Dusty, has become a little more domesticated - much to the scorn of his own father Kurt (Mel Gibson), a retired astronaut whose take on tough love is almost brutal.
When the families decide to jointly host Christmas for the sake of the children, Kurt sees that as the perfect opportunity to stir things up a little bit
The red-blooded reactionary (a role remarkably similar to the one Gibson has been playing in real life) hires a miniature ski lodge for the extended blended family's yuletide celebrations.
Once there, he actively and openly undermines the fragile friendship between the two co-dads.
It doesn't take long for the fissures to be revealed
The kids, of course, are quick to take advantage of this new and combative state of affairs.
While the jokes are wildly uneven, and the storyline is about as formulaic as one would expect from a Christmas comedy, something about this loud and boisterous exploration of modern masculinity strikes a chord.
Daddy's Home 2 opens on Thursday.
Daddy's Home 2
Stars: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Mel Gibson and John Lithgow
Director: Sean Anders
Verdict: 3 stars