“The way I see it, anyone can be a father but not everyone has the patience and devotion to be a daddy.”
Somewhere deep, deep down in Daddy’s Home rests a good movie in hiding. Parts are genuinely funny and the script is decently structured. It’s short and mild enough to sit through. And then it goes for the extremes. Crashing a motorcycle through a house, deadly electric shocks, drunken public embarrassments. We see men behaving badly as boys, and here it’s a lot like watching two dogs duke it out to be the last one to pee on a spot. Sometimes in comedies as well as every other genre, less can be more. But in Daddy’s Home, I don’t believe that the big moments could be any more insubstantial.
Sean Anders’ movie reteams Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg from their previous collaboration on The Other Guys, a title that, looking back on it, seems to be in reference to the two sad schmucks leading Daddy’s Home. Ferrell plays Brad, a boring yet reliable step father who appropriately works at a smooth jazz radio station. Dusty (Wahlberg) is the absentee biological parent out living the wild life while Brad does carpool and lunches and school volunteering for Sarah’s (Linda Cardellini) son and daughter. Brad lacks a spine, so when Dusty calls offering up to pay a visit, he naturally overstays his welcome. Daddy’s Home may be a procedural comedy, so although it tries to pine for laughs out of giant pile-ups, it finds honest humor in the little interactions that happen before we even get in the car. You’ll laugh a little and shake your head a lot.
Cardellini, a talented actress, is relegated to a one-note housewife role who succumbs, over and over, to the promise of a future from a man. The writing for her character is, like most comedies, generalized and without thought. Wahlberg gets to go shirtless because that’s what physically fit guys do in these types of movies. The most puzzling character is Ferrell’s Brad. He’s unable to have kids, something Sarah wants, and it’s seemingly caused from his balls being tied in a knot. Not only does Brad lack masculinity, he lacks a personality altogether. So when he and Dusty start their back and forth it comes across more as the acts of Simian primates than real people doing previously unthinkable things. Wahlberg and Ferrell are funny, and with the help of Thomas Haden Church and Hannibal Buress actually elicit earned chuckles. But you realize you’re often laughing at them and not with them. With a side story which literally addresses the issue, the film invites its audience to bully it. Nobody puts Daddy’s Home in a corner besides itself.
The movie features blatant product placement and very little sincerity. I watched this and thought of films like What About Bob? and Planes, Trains & Automobiles. How both classics presented two unlikable men but took the time and the planning to give each an equally redemptive trait. Sadly, Brad and Dusty don’t have that camaraderie or emotional intellect. They battle each other and their egos, always selfishly and forfeiting the opportunity to take the high road and become the men that they are supposed to be. Even in the final minutes, when the script utilizes the impact of a previous to scene to find dramatic fulfillment in the last, it’s ruined by Ferrell shirtless at a Daddy-Daughter dance without reason. Comedies can be as sweet and tender as they can be crass and mean. Daddy’s Home just doesn’t know when to lock the doors and say enough is enough.
“You take s*** better than anyone I’ve ever met.”
Rating: 2 out of 5