Daddy's Home (2015) / Comedy
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for thematic elements, crude and suggestive material and for language.
Running Time: 96 min.
Cast: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Linda Cardellini, Thomas Haden Church, Hannibal Burress, Scarlet Estevez, Owen Vaccaro, Bobby Cannavale
Cameo: Kobe Bryant, John Cena, Paul Scheer
Director: Sean Anders
Screenplay: Brian Burns, Sean Anders, John Morris
Review published December 25, 2015
Will Ferrell (A Deadly Adoption, Get Hard) stars as New Orleans smooth jazz ratio station exec Brad Whitaker, who has a loving wife in Sara (Cardellini, Avengers: Age of Ultron), and two stepchildren who haven't quite come around to accepting him as their new father. Things seem to be on the up and up until Sara's deadbeat ex, Dusty Mayron (Wahlberg, Ted 2), decides he wants to pay a visit, triggering lots of feelings of jealousy and insecurity when it turns out that Dusty is seen as the epitome of cool to his kids in all of the ways Brad can never be. Thinking he needs to up his game in the face of a total alpha male who might even steal back his ex-wife, Brad decides he's going to have to start 'manning up' and beat Dusty at his own game to earn the right to be the man of the house.
Directed and co-written by Sean Anders (Horrible Bosses 2, That's My Boy), along with fellow scripters Brian Burns ("Blue Bloods") and John Morris (Dumb and Dumber To), Daddy's Home is an extended sitcom episode that's generally uninspired most of the time, but has enough laugh-out-loud moments to keep it from the movie abyss it seems it would be destined for from the trailer. Anders aims toward an anything-for-laughs style, willing to engage in some grossly exaggerated sight gags for jokes, such as a scene in which Brad tries to handle Dusty's high-powered motorcycle, only for it to lose control and destroy his own family vehicle (the film doubles as a commercial for the Ford Flex and Cinnabon) and a good chunk of the house, punctuated by the cartoon-worthy of Brad stuck with half his body sticking out of the wall. Another scene (featured prominently in the trailer) sees Brad try to one-up Dusty on a skateboarding half-pipe he's built for the kids in the backyard that has him jump on the ramp from the roof only to fly and land, full-body, into the power lines above the house. As Brad lays there, dying, Dusty nonchalantly uses this as an prolonged opportunity to quiz the kids on first-aid techniques. It's an inherently silly movie.
Although marketed as a family film, parents will probably want to consider the PG-13 rating, as there are a number of penis-size related gags (they actually compare sizes) and sexual references that might have the kiddos curious enough to ask what was so funny, and the movie does draw to the comedic well of potty-mouthed children on a number of occasions to try to drum up some easy laughs. There's also some racial humor that enters the mix that's a little creaky, playing off of the notion that whatever Brad says to the African-American repairman who is dismissed from duties in order to show that he's a real 'man of the house' who can fix things himself, it's only because he's black. The film contrives a way for that same character to end up living in the house, presumably because Anders thinks this race-humor angle is especially funny, and wants to milk the gag for all its worth throughout the rest of the movie.
Fans of Ferrell and Wahlberg, particularly those who enjoyed seeing them together doing virtually the same 'milquetoast man vs. tough guy' shtick in their previous collaboration, The Other Guys, will likely enjoy Daddy's Home more than most, but at this point in both of their careers, it feels like they're lazily regressing into formula commercial material they've done many times before. The kids are, of course, cute and exceedingly idealized for humor props, while the wife is afforded about as much personality as a rope for the men to play tug of war with (a disappointing waste of Linda Cardellini's comedic talent). We have a man who has proven for years he is a terrible absentee father who exposes his replacement as a clueless and ineffectual dad who is equally reckless and irresponsible as to the well-being of his family. The best possible ending would be to dump both of these polar-opposite losers and just go for a normal guy somewhere in the middle.
©2015 Vince Leo