Stop me if you’ve heard this one before – Daddy’s Home features Will Ferrell as a too-nice, overly idealistic stepfather who must compete with Mark Wahlberg’s rugged, motorcycle-riding biological father for his new family’s love. Ferrell is the straight man, Wahlberg shows off his abs a lot, and wacky hi-jinx ensue that cause both men to go
a little a lot insane.
You’ve seen both leading men play mirroring characters in previous films, and based on the trailers, you know exactly what to expect when these daddies come home this holiday season. For some, this bland comedic regurgitation will be perfectly fine, but for those who are growing tired of watching a squeaky-clean Will Ferrell get his ass kicked, you’ll see every joke coming from a mile away. Familiarity – it’s hard to avoid these days.
Will Ferrell stars as Brad, a nervous stepfather who embraces Sarah’s (Linda Cardellini) lovely children, Megan (Scarlett Estevez) and Dylan (Owen Vaccaro). After months of being a stranger, Megan and Dylan finally start to see Brad as a father figure – and that’s when real papa Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) comes home to dethrone his castle’s new king. A struggle begins between Brad and Dusty, as they fight to make the other look like an incompetent father. Fake Christmases, twenty dollar bribes, and professional-grade treehouses make the kids happy at first, but unrealistic antics soon form a wedge between family and manly competition. Both fathers want the same prize, but neither will prove victorious if they drive away the very family they’re fighting for.
When it comes down to brass tax, you’re watching Daddy’s Home for four real reasons – Hannibal Buress, the pint-sized Scarlett Estevez, Thomas Hayden Church, and a final-frame cameo we won’t discuss here. Ferrell and Wahlberg are fine, but their act grows predictably tiresome. It’s Buress’ interjections at inappropriate moments that get a bigger laugh than pain inflicted upon the main stars, as Griff (Burress) continues to live with Wahlberg for no real rational reason.
The same randomness makes Brad’s smooth jazz radio station manager Leo (Church) such a captivator, as he tells salacious stories that have absolutely nothing to do with the conflict on-hand. Top that off with Estevez’s absolutely hilarious delivery as a spunky little firecracker, complete with hilarious cursing and childhood innocence, and these are the three big winners of Sean Anders’ latest mainstream comedy.
What’s most disappointing is that Anders’ Sex Drive burst onto the scene in a time of so many American Pie copycats, and did so with a hilarious disregard for playing nice. But over the years, Anders hasn’t shown the same sharp-tonged, raunchy persona, and Daddy’s Boy doesn’t do anything to prove otherwise.
It’s funny in small bursts, but far-too familiar concerning jokes that are mapped out lazily. Whether it be an obvious half-pipe disaster, or Brad’s constant ability to ignore Dusty’s wolf-like advances, co-writers Brian Burns and John Morris never help Anders elevate this screenplay past its easily marketable logline. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not talking a Vacation-esque bomb here, but it’s arguably more disappointing because Anders has shown the ability to make audiences cry from laughter.
Neither Ferrell or Wahlberg get to flex their comedic muscles very far (despite Wahlberg’s constant actual muscle-flexing), as they get stuck playing characters that we’ve grown accustom to. Ferrell, the nerdy Mr. Clean, and Wahlberg, the shirt-ripping muscle man – in other words, there’s an air of safety around their performances. Laughs center more around visual gags than either actor being particularly witty, but there are some genuinely funny moments when Wahlberg and Ferrell interact with their more successful co-stars. It’s just a shame that neither of the starts have much to do beside embody crudely-drawn goons, and for that, Daddy’s Home falls a bit flat despite boasting such big leading names.
There’s a redeeming factor that comes in the way of Brad and Dusty’s eventual tag-teaming that saves Megan’s night, but it’s not quite enough to save this middling, ho-hum “family” comedy. Expectations are barely met, but never surpassed. There’s nothing exceptional about Wahlberg’s physically-focused mockery, and Ferrell’s super-sappy niceties lose their potency after only a few scenes. Daddy’s Home sounds like gold on paper, but is merely a pedestrian comedy in execution – Netflix-worth fodder without any cash on the line.
Daddy's Home is the uncool stepfather who just never fits in - except he doesn't try very hard, and accepts being second-rate.