Release: Christmas Day 2015
Written by: Sean Anders; Brian Burns; John Morris
Directed by: Sean Anders
Will Ferrell may not yet be suffering late-stage DeNiro, but if he’s not careful he can still emasculate his career if he keeps up the habit of portraying people who get off on being abused by everyone else in the movie. He needs to go back to playing the egomaniac, his nice guy schtick just isn’t working.
In Daddy’s Home, the experiment to see whether Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg truly have chemistry or if The Other Guys was just a one-time thing, he plays the hapless (and almost hopeless) Brad Whitaker, a stepdad who really, really enjoys parenting. I suppose the suburban household remains one of the few domains his comedic antics haven’t yet targeted. Satirically speaking, the subject seems fitting; there’s something about the mundanity of parenting and living in a four-bedroom house, surrounded by a white picket fence that offers itself up to parody. And no, this isn’t me being sarcastic.
The movie is about Brad fighting for the right to be called ‘dad’ by his children. His domain is threatened when their biological father, a motorcycle-riding alpha male named Dusty Mayron (Wahlberg) — only a few letter changes away from being a Moron — suddenly reappears in their lives when he comes to visit them and his ex-wife Sara (Linda Cardellini) for a week.
As expected, a game of one-upmanship ensues, beginning with Dusty trying to win his children over with bedtime stories of heroics and a crisp $20 bill. Not to be outdone, Brad springs an impromptu Christmas upon the family. One of the gifts is a pony for his stepdaughter. Before long, Dusty’s taking off his shirt and doing one-handed pull-ups in the garage (fuck yeah bro, you totally win the Chiseled Abs award).
The nadir of this protracted pissing contest occurs when Brad clocks a cheerleader in the head with a basketball at the Lakers game, to which he takes the whole family assuming he finally has the upper hand. Unfortunately, he doesn’t factor in Dusty’s popularity, a privilege that grants the kids some face time with Kobe Bryant. Brad has seemingly overstepped a line and is temporarily booted from his own home. Le weep.
Brad Whitaker, who is introduced immediately as a man who has struggled with infertility after a freak accident at a doctor’s office some years ago, represents Ferrell at his most self-deprecating. It’s the epitome of a comedian softening in his older age. Ferrell’s less animated and more straight-laced in his portrayal of a suburbanite stepdad trying to do right by his family. It’s a role that simply doesn’t fit. Unfortunately his awkwardness isn’t the full extent of the issues with Anders’ latest.
Disregarding the mean-spirited nature of the comedy, Daddy’s Home also commits a genre-specific cardinal sin: it just ain’t that funny. Thomas Haden Church, as Ferrell’s boss at the Panda radio station, is absurdly annoying. Hannibal Buress has good comedic timing but is stuck with a character that offers precisely nothing of value. Linda Cardellini drowns in a pool of testosterone. And are the kids being spoiled twerps supposed to be some kind of commentary on modern consumerist behavior? Probably not, this movie isn’t that ambitious.
Good news is, Wahlberg, ever the American inamorato, continues being immune to enmity, even when his character is specifically written to incur it. He’s Ferrell’s opposite in every way, a guy we’re meant to be rooting against. Or, someone from whom maybe . . . just maybe, Brad could learn something as two different parenting styles — one a caring, loving presence and the other a total ghost — clash in a comedy that seems to think it’s humorous to debase a human being because of his inability to reproduce.
It’s a minor victory that Wahlberg and Ferrell work well together in their second collaboration, but I’m still not really laughing.
Recommendation: It’s a comedy with Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg in it, but the stars of the film are much easier to find than the comedy. The Other Guys is the superior outing, even though it’s not exactly comedy of the year either. Nonetheless, and somewhat strangely, the two have an easy chemistry that makes looking forward to their next project together more exciting than it probably should be. Here’s to hoping no more potential goes wasted.
Running Time: 96 mins.
Quoted: “I’m a hot habenero pepper right now.”
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