Director: Sean Anders
Cast: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Linda Cardellini, Hannibal Buress, Thomas Haden Church, Bobby Cannavale
Plot: Gentle family man, Brad (Ferrell), is trying to earn a place in his stepchildren’s heart, made even more difficult when the kids’ biological father (Wahlberg) shows up.
Do you remember The Other Guys? A smash hit cop comedy that threw Ferrell and Wahlberg together, a pairing no one ever thought would work. But work it did, with Ferrell providing his usual oddball persona, but paired with Wahlberg’s action hero stereotype, complete with a comedic loss of self-esteem. Daddy’s Home should be a reuniting of those two amazing leads in another smash hit comedy. Sadly, Daddy’s Home is nowhere near the same level of quality.
The set-up is simple, but, in a way, that gives the writers an excuse to not fully commit to a script, always taking the easy road. Daddy’s Home never quite escape the fact that it feels like the first draft of a better movie. Ferrell plays a well-meaning stepfather to his wife’s children, aware that he is always the secondary male figure in their life. Just as he believes he is turning the curve, biological father Mark Wahlberg shows up, out of the blue. The pair of them find themselves in a dick-measuring contest, trying to upstage the other. The jokes are simple and obvious. Mark Wahlberg plays the badass alpha male and Ferrell tries to live up to his image. Of course, the kids end up suffering with their male moral figures solving their problems in ways that put them in a positive light. Cue a scene where the pair of them lecture their son on how to deal with bullies, veering into their own personal lives. In following the obvious route, it feels like the script was hoping that the actors’ chemistry would do the heavy lifting and therefore, there are few jokes that actually land. The scenes usually turn out the same way. It doesn’t help that both Ferrell and Wahlberg appear to be coasting through this one, both actors solidly in their comfort zone. Ferrell is both charismatic and pitiful, yes, but he needs a witty script to really take his humour to another level. And Wahlberg is even more tragic. The actor was faltering in the action move department – good, but nothing memorable – until The Other Guys (or arguably Ted), proved that the actor was a decent comic. Daddy’s Home feels like a backwards step with Wahlberg playing Wahlberg in a comedy, rather than a comedic actor in a comedy. It feels like the script has been set up to use Mark Wahlberg as a comedic device. Perhaps that is the problem. It is very likely that they were never any other casting choices for the lead other than Ferrell and Wahlberg, meaning that this is a script written with them in mind. Therefore, while Wahlberg in The Other Guys felt like some crazy off-the-wall casting that paid off, there is nothing as exciting going on with Daddy’s Home, making everything feel a bit flat.
The film eventually builds up some traction. With two thirds of this film only really ever raising chuckles from its audience, it does manage to deliver a few proper belly laughs by the end. The first scene that deserves credit is Will Ferrell drunkenly winning a basketball competition. It’s the kind of joke that, for the first time, isn’t predictable and causes one of those dark laughs that you feel guilty about immediately afterwards. Then, after some mandatory heart-warming serious stuff, we are off to the Daddy-Daughter dance for some plot tying-up. Here, the film enters strange waters: consistently good comedy. It is almost as if a whole new writing team showed up and began pouring zingers after zingers into the mix. There is a clever twist with the bullying fourth-graders and a moment where Wahlberg painfully realises he cannot resort to violence to solve his problems in front of the kids. Sure, the gag has been lifted off of a very successful superhero movie recently, but the whole cast sell it. Arguably, however, too little, too late.
Final Verdict: The cast look promising, but forget to do anything other than show up. Both Ferrell and Wahlberg have done a lot better than this.