By Jon Gallagher
Daddy’s Home (Paramount, 2015) – Director: Sean Anders. Writers: Sean Anders, Brian Burns, and John Morris (s/p). Brian Burns (story). Stars: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Linda Cardellini, Thomas Haden Church, Scarlett Estevez, Owen Vaccaro, Bobby Cannavale, Hannibal Buress, Bill Burr, Jamie Denbo, Mark L. Young, Matthew Paul Martinez, Dave Davis, James Harton Palmer, & Riley Corbin. Color, Rated PG-13, 96 minutes.
There are times when I find Will Farrell brilliant and funny. There are other times when I find him pathetic and annoying. Unfortunately, the latter has been the case more often than not with most of his latest work. He seems to “become” his character, which is usually an extreme exaggeration, and the overacting that accompanies it manages to ruin the entire movie.
On the other hand, I usually like Mark Wahlberg, at least since he’s stopped being that cartoon character Marky Mark. I can accept his tough-guy persona, even when he’s adapted it to a comedic setting.
That’s why I had no idea how I was going to react to the two together in the new movie Daddy’s Home. The previews looked good, but I was afraid that they’d just showed all the funny parts in advance, trying to lure people to the box office. While I was partially right on that count, I came out of the theater pleasantly surprised.
The storyline is pretty simple. Brad (Farrell) is the new stepdad to a couple of pre-teens. He’s trying his hardest to be accepted by the pair. Dusty (Wahlberg) is the bio-dad who comes back into their lives and attempts to take back his family. The result is a slapstick comedy as the two compete for the affections of the children while mom Sara (Cardellini) plays referee while longing for a third child.
Brad is the polar opposite of a “cool dad,” a straight-laced radio executive who reads books on step-parenting while Dusty is a motorcycle-riding, former special ops dude who makes Arthur Fonzarelli look like a nerd. He has the ability to make people like him within the first 10 seconds after meeting him, and it seems he knows everybody in the world who’s famous. In real life, a battle for the kids’ affection between the two would throw the kids into a dangerous position, but in a movie such as this, it allows us to sit back and just enjoy the mayhem.
One nice thing about the movie is that we really don’t “root” for either father. Both are portrayed as being just a bit psychotic (in a nice way) which provides several funny moments. I was right in thinking that most of the funny parts have been seen during the trailers, but the way the story is blended together, makes that a non-issue. The bridge between the funny scenes that you’ve already watched is interesting and entertaining.
I should mention that I would not take my pre-teen to see the movie. There are some highly sexual scenes in it that I’m not quite ready to explain to an 11-year-old.
For example, Dusty sets Brad and Sara up with an appointment with a famous fertility doctor (who just happens to be a friend of Dusty’s). He determines that part of Brad’s infertility problem has something to do with his, er, ah, private parts (see… it’s even hard to explain here!). He has Sara feel said parts, then brings in Dusty for a comparison. It’s a funny scene, but it’s funny for ADULTS, not kids. Take your kids, and you’re gonna have some major “splainin’ to do.” Maybe the best you can hope for is that they forget about that scene by the end of the movie. The worst you can hope for is that they’re too embarrassed to ask you about it and instead ask friends at school.
Farrell does a decent job with his role. There are a couple of spots where he goes a bit over the top, but for the most part, it’s not annoying. Wahlberg does the tough guy thing and makes it work in this comedy. Almost everyone else in the film is there just to provide carbon dioxide and their roles could have been filled with just about anyone.
There is a twist at the end of the movie that I didn’t see coming. I won’t spoil it for those of you who want to see it. But it doesn’t end in a predictable way, which was somewhat of a relief.
I might have been willing to add a + to the end of it had they not marketed it as a “family film” and then thrown in the sex stuff. They could have worked a little harder and come up with better “family” comedy than jokes about the size and shape of someone’s junk.
Everyone else exiting the theater, even those with kids, seemed to enjoy themselves. You know your kids better than I do, so use your own judgment before deciding whether or not to take the family out to this one.