Daddy’s Home (2015)

Family is worth fighting for

Judge me all you will but I actually like comedian Will Ferrell. I know the guy basically plays the same couple of roles in just about every movie — the weak, clueless yet lovable man-child or the seedy slimeball — however, I always find his antics rather amusing (heck, I’ll never tire of Ferrell’s first-rate improvisation skills). Whether he’s embodying Buddy the Elf or the sleazy pickup artist Chazz Reinhold — who essentially stole the entire Wedding Crashers (2005) from Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson in one fell swoop — Ferrell is a constant delight to behold. On the other hand, I understand that his silly comic shtick isn’t for everyone. I’m also the first to admit that not all Ferrell’s films are winners. Either way, the funny man possesses an exciting sense of unpredictability, a distinctive sorta impulsiveness that’s lacking in most comedians today. So, with that out of the way, feel free to take my ramblings here with a grain of salt.

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly ... not necessarily in that order
The Good, The Bad, The Ugly … not necessarily in that order

After the raging critical and commercial success of Adam McKay’s The Other Guys (2010), Daddy’s Home reunites actors Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg who proved their comic chemistry as the ill-matched police partners in the aforementioned action-comedy. Directed by Sean Anders, We’re the Millers (2013), Daddy’s Home (once again) plays to its stars’ strengths with Ferrell showcasing his goofy slapstick chops and a shirtless Wahlberg flexing his beefy pecs. While Daddy’s Home doesn’t break any new ground, it focuses on a number of relatable core motifs and offers enough belly-aching laughs and a sweet third-act reconciliation that (quite frankly) makes the whole fuzzy experience a rewarding one.

Brad Whitaker (Will Ferrell) is a good-natured radio executive who married the love-of-his-life, Sara (Linda Cardellini), eight months ago. Since then, the amiable Brad has been trying desperately hard to earn the respect of his two preteen stepchildren, Megan (Scarlett Estevez) and Dylan (Owen Vaccaro) — you know, he picks them up from school, speaks to them about handling bullies and even coaches their Little League team. Their biological father, Dusty Mayron (Mark Wahlberg), on the other hand, is the polar opposite of Brad — he’s an unreliable alpha male who’s never been around. Naturally, when Dusty shows up unannounced and crashes at the Whitaker household, Brad becomes intimidated by Dusty’s more attractive and muscular physique and how easily he gets along with the kids. When Brad wises up to Dusty’s plans of reconciling with his past love and reconnecting with his children, its ‘Game On’ as Daddy’s Home pits the wimpy nice guy against the burly bad boy in the ultimate dad versus dad showdown as both men fight to win the affection of their family.

How many steps can a step-dad step on before he steps up?
How many steps can a step-dad step on before he steps up?

Primarily about fatherhood, this emasculating farce shines brightest when it’s focusing on the dads, with Brad and Dusty going to great lengths in order to ‘outshine’ one another. A lot of the film’s best moments stem from the well-meaning Brad, who’s constantly stumbling when trying to do the right thing, Dusty more or less always coming out on top; Brad is thrown off Dusty’s powerful motorcycle as he attempts to impress his family for example, that’s after losing control and riding directly into the Whitaker home. Thankfully, Ferrell and Wahlberg have enough opposite-ends charisma to pull the whole thing off (almost effortlessly) — by now it’s clear that Will Ferrell has mastered playing the bumbling well-intentioned buffoon while Mark Wahlberg is the epitome of musclehead cool. Watching the men bicker as their bedtime stories begin to share obvious parallels with their rivalry stands as just one of the many lippy interchanges that makes this inspired pairing totally worthwhile. Elsewhere, the ever-versatile Linda Cardellini radiates as Wahlberg’s ex-wife and Ferrell’s current wife, the former Freaks and Geeks (1999) actress working as the foundation amidst all the anarchy; she’s still looking mighty fine too!

Support players are equally as well rounded. Thomas Haden Church, Spider-Man 3 (2007), brings his unique brand of weirdness to the film as Leo Holt, Brad’s womanizing boss (a guy who continually shares wacky stories about how his ex-wives burnt him in the past) while Hannibal Buress, The Eric Andre Show (2012), supplies some lively laughs as Griff, a handyman who’s invited to stay with the Whitaker folk after Dusty forces Brad to fire him during a repair job. Oh, and look out for a brief but amusing cameo from Bobby Cannavale, with the Ant-Man (2015) star playing Dr. Francisco, a fertility specialist who’s oddly very familiar with what’s inside Dusty’s trousers.

'See kids, this is why you should always use protection.'
‘See kids, this is why you should always use protection.’

Written and directed by Sean Anders and John Morris — the guys who brought us We’re the Millers (2013) — and Brian Burns — a producer and writer who worked on television’s Entourage (2004) — Daddy’s Home is a well-constructed hoot with a surprising amount of heart. Sure the flick does have its fair share of adult jokes but its PG rating keeps it from venturing too far into raunchy territory and gives it the warm interior it wouldn’t otherwise possess. While formulaic, cheesy and a little predictable this family-orientated satire is a riotous way to spend a lazy afternoon.

Crucify me if you must, but I find myself eagerly awaiting Ferrell’s return to the big screen in 2016’s Zoolander 2, where he reprises his role as the evil fashion designer, Mugatu.

3.5 / 5 – Great

Reviewed by Mr. Movie

Daddy’s Home is released through Paramount Pictures Australia