OLIVIA O’GRADY reviews ‘Daddy’s Home’, Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg’s latest comedy about modern manhood in crisis.
If Will Ferrell’s priceless performance in the arguably unparalleled Christmas film Elf seems like a distant memory from December, Daddy’s Home will offer mild relief.
In this domestic comedy, Ferrell is reunited with The Other Guys co-star Mark Wahlberg as the duo plays a pair of feuding fathers. Ferrell effortlessly assumes the role of Brad – a punctilious stepdad and domestic hero to his wife, Sarah (Linda Cardellini) – who wants nothing more than to win the affection of his stepchildren, Dylan and Megan. His efforts seem to be paying off when he is included in his stepdaughter’s family portrait, before the likes of some freak accident or brutal death disrupt the harmony.
When Sarah’s absent ex and the children’s biological father, Dusty (Mark Wahlberg), comes onto the scene, Brad is somewhat replaced by a fitter model. Motorbike-riding Dusty and his chiseled abs provide the perfect counterpart to buttoned-up Brad and his family-friendly Ford Flex. The fathers meet, and the competition begins. In an attempt to out-daddy each other, what starts as a passive-aggressive rivalry between the pair soon escalates from bribes of starbursts and scheming bed time stories to $18,000 Lakers tickets and DIY garden skate parks – all of which end with Brad’s humiliation. However, Brad’s luck does appear to change when Dusty’s attempt to out-do him at a fertility clinic proves to be the exact impetus Brad needs to reverse his x-ray induced infertility.
Daddy’s Home comes together as a comedic hodgepodge of previous Ferrell films. For example, while the Ferrell and Wahlberg duo have clear chemistry, the good-cop/bad-cop dynamic appears quite literally copied from its superior, The Other Guys. Ferrell’s mastery of the lame beta-male role is also anticipated given his role in Get Hard. Similarly, the stepfamily strife brings to mind the relentless duel between Brennan and Dale in Stepbrothers. Adam McKay is a prominent writer in each of these comedies but assumes a lesser role as producer beneath Sean Anders in Daddy’s Home. His absence in the film’s writing leads the film to resemble Anders’ weaker comedies like We’re The Millers.
Not too far removed from Ferrell’s The Other Guys screen-wife played by Eva Mendes, Sarah is similarly pined after by Wahlberg’s character. Cardellini is somewhat underused in her initial presentation as an overworked single parent. But her role soon withers into that of a mere arbiter, refereeing the boxing match between the pair while also being the passive prize for the winner. Sarah becomes the paradigmatic female in Ferrell’s comedies – an enabler for the plot. For example, she houses Griff, a completely random handyman during the course of the film, and absurdly delegates daddy-duties to Dusty towards the end. Any rationality the film once maintained is altogether discharged for the slapstick comedy that ensues.
Nonetheless the film bizarrely plays a more sentimental note towards the end where family values, a new stepmother, and John Cena take center stage. The blended family finds resolution in an age where divorce seems inevitable – a cutting realization altogether disregarded in the light of a dance-off between Mark Wahlberg and Bill Burr. Perhaps not living up to the legend of Ron Burgundy, Daddy’s Home still has its laugh-out-loud moments. And if that’s not enough, Will Ferrell gets drunk and knocks out a cheerleader.
Director: Sean Anders
Cast: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Linda Cardellini
Running Time: 96 mins
‘Daddy’s Home’ is on general release.