Film Review: Daddy’s Home

by Carrie Kahn on December 25, 2015

You won’t want to go home to this Daddy

Brad (Will Ferrell, left) tries to find common ground with Dusty (Mark Wahlberg, r.), his wife’s ex-husband and the father of Brad’s step-children.

Back in 2010, Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg starred in a middling buddy cop movie called The Other Guys, which at least had the benefit of being directed by Adam McKay, who directed Ferrell in the well-received Anchorman movies, and is currently garnering deserved praise for the very smart and very funny The Big Short. McKay’s early, relatively innocuous effort pairing Ferrell and Wahlberg, however, looks like the Hamlet of movie comedies compared to the newest film featuring the duo, a lazy, paint-by-numbers, dispiriting picture called Daddy’s Home.

Directed by Sean Anders (whose resume includes Horrible Bosses 2, Dumb and Dumber To, and the unwatchable Adam Sandler comedy That’s My Boy, which should tell you something right there), and co-written with TV writer Brian Burns and screenwriter John Morris (who, along with Anders, also wrote Horrible Bosses 2 and Dumb and Dumber To), Daddy’s Home takes a tired, well-worn plot and brings nothing fresh to it. Anders and company offer up only the easiest, cheapest jokes, and their picture plays less like a big-screen comedy and more like a slightly more raunchy – but way more unfunny – televised after-school special.

Brad (Will Ferrell) and Sara (Linda Cardellini) admire a family picture drawn by one of her kids.

The thin plot gives us Ferrell’s Brad Whitaker, an executive of some sort at a smooth jazz radio station, who has recently married Sara (Linda Cardellini), a mom with two kids from a previous marriage. Just as Brad is finally feeling like he’s bonding with the tykes, the kids’ bad-ass but generally uninvolved biological father (and Sara’s ex), Dusty (Wahlberg), comes to town to try and reinsert himself into the family, much to Brad’s dismay. At this point, you can probably fill in the rest of the plot yourself with fairly dead-on accuracy, as various high jinks, pratfalls, and heartwarming moments gone awry ensue, all followed by the rather predictable, sugary sweet ending that’s to be expected from an unoriginal Christmas-time “comedy” (and I’m using that term loosely here) such as this.

As for the cast, they seem game enough, if a little bored. Ferrell seems to be going through the motions, relying solely on the audience’s good will and innate love of his screen presence, and Wahlberg is completely one note as the irresponsible, jealous dad trying to worm his way back into his family’s good graces. Linda Cardellini, though, has the thankless task of playing the straight man here, and she spends the entire film looking vaguely embarrassed, as if she’s in disbelief at where her career has landed since she starred alongside Jon Hamm in Mad Men.

Thomas Haden Church and his mustache run a smooth jazz station.

Thomas Haden Church and his mustache run a smooth jazz station.

Naturally, two of the picture’s best actors are relegated to supporting roles. Bobby Cannavale has a very funny, but much too small, role as a fertility doctor Sara and Brad see at Dusty’s urging. Cannavale at least seems to know he’s supposed to be in a comedy, and brings a welcome, winking, jocularity to a film woefully short on genuine, breezy humor. Even better is Thomas Haden Church as Brad’s somewhat dim, and downright weird, boss at the radio station. Church actually generates the only real laughs of the film, with his portrayal of a well-meaning, but clueless friend, whose method of offering advice to Brad is to begin with, “Let me tell you a little story…” before launching into a tale, that while totally unrelated to Brad’s problem, is at least, thankfully for us, highly amusing.

The film’s best gag is a dance number near the end of the picture, but that brief scene comes too late, and isn’t nearly enough to recommend this generally humorless mess. The really sad part, though, is that the movie’s basic message about successful and happy blended families – while a bit cloying and predictable – is actually a nice one for kids. But with its PG-13 rating, the film may not be one parents will want to take young kids to, even though they are the ones who might appreciate it the most. Instead of trying to appeal to an adult crowd, Anders could have just cut all the unnecessary swearing and lame sex jokes, and made a PG movie that could have at least worked as a solid family picture. As it stands now, though, no one wins with this stale, pointless, and joyless waste of talent.


Daddy’s Home opens today at Bay Area theaters.



Carrie Kahn

Moving from the arthouse to the multiplex with grace, ease, and only the occasional eye roll. Proud new member of the San Francisco Film Critics Circle.

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