DADDY’S HOME 2 [PG-13] D+
We’ve reached a real critical juncture when it comes to entertainment and ethics. Every week word arrives that someone in Hollywood has engaged in abhorrent behavior and we must decide how to treat this figure moving forward. I’m sure writer-director Sean Anders (“Horrible Bosses 2”) wasn’t expecting to face such considerations when he reteamed with the dynamic duo of Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg (“The Other Guys”) for a second look at modern step-parenting, but when you cast Mel Gibson as the father of Wahlberg’s uber-macho type, you’re asking audiences to really turn their brains off. Ferrell and John Lithgow, along with Jon Cena, almost make the flip switch work, although I really wish Anders had boldly tackled the issue head on. Can we forgive past abusers and manipulators, especially when they happen to be members of the family? That’s far more political than “Daddy’s Home 2 ever wanted to be, but right now, I can’t ignore the larger context. Sorry.
MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS [PG-13] D
While I’m not a fan of Agatha Christie mysteries, I do love a stylishly rendered adaptations, especially when the person at the helm – in this case, multi-hyphenate Kenneth Branagh – has a reputation for delivering opulent feasts for literary-minded souls. His translations of Shakespeare, from the brooding intensity of “Henry V” to the breezy star-studded romp of “Much Ado About Nothing,” have been sterling examples of his ability to commune with the spirit of the creator and bring that sensibility to this day and age, but his “Murder on the Orient Express” lacks the propulsive firepower, the crackling wit and dramatic interplay between the characters (too bad when featuring the likes of Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Johnny Depp, and Leslie Odom Jr) to make me want to know who did it. About halfway through the proceedings, I forgot a crime had even been committed on this express train to nowhere.