Reviewer: Philip Price
Director: Sean Anders
Stars: Alessandra Ambrosio, Bill Burr, Bobby Cannavale, Hannibal Buress, John Cena, Linda Cardellini, Mark Wahlberg, Owen Vaccaro, Paul Scheer, Scarlett Estevez, Thomas Haden Church, Will Ferrell
Released: December 26th, 2015
The Other Guys is a brilliant piece of satire that really gave way for director Adam McKay to go in the direction of crafting something like The Big Short.The Other Guys was also helped by the oddball pairing of Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg who proved to have almost as much chemistry as Ferrell and John C. Reilly. So, it was natural for the two to want to reunite given their past success, but The Other Guys Daddy’s Home is not. This was clear from the beginning. Whereas The Other Guys felt like a film, an actual, real, weighted film with an objective and a structure that felt inspired without being standard, Daddy’s Home feels like a rushed job of a couple of funny men getting together and seeing what they can hammer out. Daddy’s Homeis a movie and one that has seemingly been dropped off the Hollywood assembly line in hopes that it will appeal to enough people to make it’s money back on the broad appeal of Ferrell and Wahlberg. There is nothing particularly insightful about the picture, there isn’t even anything particularly funny to the point I’ll remember it tomorrow, and the product placement is so abhorrently obvious the whole thing might as well be a commercial, but beyond these heavy complaints lies a movie that still stars the likes of Ferrell and Wahlberg. Both are very likable guys with a supporting cast that includes the always-pleasant Linda Cardellini, the outrageous Thomas Haden Church, a surprisingly funny extended piece enlivened by Hannibal Burress and, of course, a couple of cute kids saying inappropriate things. Given these factors, despite the sub par script and despite the fact the film has little to no visual flair, Daddy’s Home comes out the other end being rather enjoyable for what it is. It is a movie one can put on in the background and still keep up with if the need to do other things arises while at the same time guaranteeing a couple of chuckles from friends or family that might also be in the vicinity. Daddy’s Home goes a long way on the charm of it’s cast making the product as a whole more endearing than it appears on first glance.
We are first introduced to Brad Whitaker (Ferrell) as the epitome of the suburbanite dad, only he isn’t exactly all he appears to be. You see, Brad is unable to have children due to an unfortunate x-ray machine accident at the dentist office a few years back, but lucky for him he’s found a woman who is way out of his league, Sara (Linda Cardellini), who just so happens to have two children that and has been looking for a safe bet like Brad. All is seemingly well in Brad and Sara’s picturesque Louisiana life sans the fact Sara’s children, Megan (Scarlett Estevez) and Dylan (Owen Vaccaro), still haven’t taken all that well to the new man in their life. Of course, just as Brad begins to make strides with his new step-children though, their biological father comes back into the picture. The complete opposite of Brad, Dusty Mayron (Wahlberg) is the kind of guy that rides a motorcycle and wears Affliction shirts with the necessary leather jacket to go along with it. Coming in with zero respect for his square of a replacement Dusty quickly jumps into action in devising a way to weasel his way into the comfortable family setting Brad has set up while simultaneously forcing Brad to the curb. Naturally, this leads to something of a competition between Brad and Dusty as the two begin going back and forth to not only impress the children, but one another. In many ways, Brad is seeking Dusty’s approval as much as he is seeking Megan and Dylan’s. That Dusty seems to dominate Brad in every aspect of manhood doesn’t ease the tension so by the time the third act of the film comes around, things are brought to a head in this dad vs. step-dad battle for the ages.
Like most Ferrell comedies, Daddy’s Home lampoons its own position on things while highlighting what it’s criticizing. Ultimately, the film of course ends up taking the high road, showing it as the admirable thing to do and thus making the underdog character the actual hero of the piece. Dusty, on the other hand, is an overcompensation of a character. He is a compilation of different ideas of what was once thought to be cool while clearly constructed to make the point that being responsible pays off in the long run while being uber-charismatic and mooching off those incapable of standing up for themselves will run its course eventually. Although the likelihood of this is doubtful in most cases, Daddy’s Home at least attempts to make some sort of statement. Of course, Wahlberg as well as writers Brian Burns and director Sean Anders (Horrible Bosses 2, Sex Drive) understand the pompous ridiculousness of their character and so they play these aspects to the max making the comedy more exaggerated and the mind games between he and Brad all the more outrageous. While the movie is supposed to be about the competing affections of these young and impressionable children, it more or less becomes a competition of who can outdo who in terms of impressing the children. Dusty shows up with the intention of taking his family back despite having been gone long enough for Sara to meet, be engaged to, and marry Brad (not to mention enough time for them to buy a house and set up a nice, comfortable suburban routine). Given Dusty’s overall facade and strangely strong ability to connive, trick, and generally play mind games with Brad the chemistry between the two is made all the more palpable as Ferrell’s Brad plays humbly into Dusty’s games. This is the most winning aspect of the film as Ferrell and Wahlberg bounce off one another with ease and create enough tension so that they might once again cut through it with another joke.
What is detrimental to Daddy’s Home is that it approaches its premise with as straight-forward an approach as Brad approaches his traditional family. There are hardly any layers to the film-there are no grandparents from either side that complicate the new dynamic of Brad and Sara or even to also become fascinated with Dusty’s antics. There are certainly a number of possibilities that a more invested script would have delved in to, but the only layers Daddy’s Home cares to add are the necessary boss to Brad at the smooth jazz station called “The Panda” in which he works, as played by Church, and a repair man who becomes a permanent fixture in Burress. While Church has a pretty solid running joke of inappropriate and outlandish stories that don’t pertain to Brad’s issues the bigger joke is more in the fact Brad sustains a comfortable living by working at a smooth jazz station. There is one particular scene in which Wahlberg’s Dusty makes an impression on Church’s Leo as he and Brad search for the new “voice” of The Panda. Dusty gives his rendition of the station’s jingle and wins over everyone in the room in a fashion where it’s clear Wahlberg isn’t the one singing, but that the film embraces the joke so much makes one wish it would do so more consistently. That said, the film does contain a more consistent stream of laughs than I initially expected and none of it feels as forced as it did in the trailers. It does hurt that the trailers gave away the films big finish at the basketball game, but the films second ending has a nice culmination of circumstances that will bring, at the very least, a smirk to your face. The movie is good about setting jokes up early and paying them off throughout as well as it is at playing with expectations, playing down the nonsense of dramatic movie moments, and cutting through any sentimental territory with more jokes. No, Daddy’s Home isn’t on par with any of Ferrell and McKay’s comedies, but it’s perfectly acceptable for what it intends to be in that it made me laugh more than I expected and that it once again proves John Cena’s comedic worth doesn’t hurt either.