“Daddy’s Home” Movie Review


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     “Daddy’s Home” is a lame and formulaic yawner delivered courtesy of Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, who fail to conjure up whatever chemistry they may have had in their first pairing, 2010’s “The Other Guys”.  Directed by Sean Anders, who was responsible for the putrid and unnecessary “Horrible Bosses 2”, “Daddy’s Home” contains not a single original thought or idea and instead chooses to follow an overused narrative that features two guys going to great lengths trying to out do each other, only to see the error in their ways near the end in order to provide the obligatory sentimental conclusion.  Teaming up with Brian Burns (“Entourage”) and “Horrible Bosses 2” scribe John Morris on the screenplay, Anders, whose screenwriting credits include the abominable “We’re the Millers” and “Dumb and Dumber To”, seemingly goes through the motions, staging a series of unfunny and mostly implausible scenes that have Ferrell and Wahlberg playing up their physical strengths, or lack thereof, in order to win the affection of two children caught in the middle.

     Brad (Ferrell) is a radio producer who marries into his dream scenario when he meets Sara (Linda Cardellini), who has two kids, Dylan (Owen Vaccaro) and Megan (Scarlett Estevez), from a previous marriage.  Together, they seem like a happy family living the usual hectic life that implores both mom and step dad to run the kids back and forth from school and various activities.  This; however, is Brad’s dream.  We learn early on his is unable to have children, so he fully embraces the opportunity to parent Dylan and Megan as if they were his own, despite both of them treating him terribly, going as far as drawing pictures of the family that depict Brad as being dead or having a knife gouged into his eye.  Brad takes it all in stride though, as he takes advice from step parenting books and proves to have the patience necessary to someday see both kids call him dad.  That is, until the phone rings one night and the kids explode with delight when they learn their real dad is coming to town.

     Dusty (Wahlberg) shows up at Brad and Sara’s home, armed with the slicked back hair and leather jacket looks of the Marlboro Man and the slimy overly nice dialogue of a used car salesman.  Of course, the kids love him, even though Sara despises him after he proved to be a less than capable father.  It’s their dad after all.  And for a while, Brad falls for Dusty’s charms too, even as Sara is constantly warning him that Dusty likes to get into people’s heads.  The overly simplistic plot moves on from there, inserting several characters who seem to be in the mix for no specific reason other than to try and buy occasional laughs that mostly fall flat.  Brad’s boss at the radio station, Leo (Thomas Haden Church), functions as the guy who gives unwanted advice on relationships given his vast experience with a number of marriages and children.  Problem is, the stilted and uneven dialogue Anders gives Church to say comes off like he’s a fill in on a bad SNL sketch.  Every exchange between him and Ferrell is awkward and unnatural.  

     Even worse is Griff (Hannibal Buress), a handyman initially hired to fix extensive damage in Brad’s home caused by a motorcycle accident, who is at first fired by Brad and then brought in as Dusty’s buddy who seems to hang around 24 hours a day and raid their refrigerator.  Obviously, this begs the question as to why Dusty is able to allow strangers into the house in the first place.  This is in addition to the fact Brad actually allows his wife’s ex husband to stay in their home for as long as he likes, even though he knows Dusty’s plan is to get his family back.  What you get here is one preposterous situation after another and they continue to build until the only way to end the thing is to essentially have both Brad and Dusty become friends for the kid’s sake.  Give me a break.

     Perhaps one of the biggest problems with “Daddy’s Home” is the fact Will Ferrell’s domesticated everyman persona has run its course.  You're again seeing him play the same guy he portrayed in “Get Hard”, “Step Brothers”, “The Campaign”, and  “Kicking and Screaming”.  And while Ferrell can still excel when he and his collaborators draw up an original character such as Ron Burgundy, the laughs are now in short supply when he continually delivers the same stale physical comedy and overused mannerisms he became famous for long ago.  The marketing team behind “Daddy’s Home” does him no favors either when you discover each and every scene with the slightest hint of comical merit is found in the film’s trailer, leaving nothing new to laugh at as we are presented with a series of repetitive conversations about who has the bigger sword and which one mommy prefers.  Even the appearance of Bobby Cannavale as a fertility doctor borders on the ludicrous when Dusty is for some reason welcomed into the examination room with Brad and Sara.  It’s as if the filmmakers didn’t care if the scene makes no sense, just as long as Ferrell and Wahlberg are on screen together.

     Because of the script’s deficiencies, Wahlberg tries to get by solely on his looks and ability to do pull ups with his shirt conveniently off.  No where to be found is the actor who excelled in films like “The Fighter” or “Lone Survivor”, and Seth MacFarlane didn’t provide him with the material here so his gift of deadpan comic delivery is sadly missing.  That’s what happens when you're given little or nothing to work with.  Truth be told, the best joke in the film occurs when Brad tells his kids he is taking them to a Lakers playoff game. Now since the story takes place in present day, I’ll admit, that’s really funny given the state of the Lakers in real life.  What isn’t so laughable is the fact it takes the filmmakers until literally the last scene of the movie to come up with something halfway clever when Dusty gets some well deserved comeuppance. Aside from that, “Daddy’s Home” tries to succeed with dull and poorly drawn characters who are inserted into a situation that is as predictable as it is stupid.  GRADE: D-