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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Movie Review: 'Daddy's Home'

Daddy's Home is serviceable holiday gluttony that will make you fatter from consuming it.

Review by Matt Cummings

If 2014 proved that comedies were back, 2015 has almost reeled that statement back in. The Night Before, Get Hard, and Entourage proved that male-lead laughfests were nothing of the sort, while female-driven ones (Spy, Sisters, and Trainwreck) were far superior. The final comedy of 2015 Daddy's Home sadly proves our point.

Brad (Will Ferrell) is newly married to Sarah (Linda Cardellini) and is stepfather to two kids who don't like him very much. No matter what Brad does to lighten their day, the kids don't recognize him as their father. Brad's style doesn't help: on the edge of being labeled effeminate, he places inspirational notes in the kids' lunchboxes, and tears up when one of them reluctantly asks him to the daddy-daughter dance at school. Unfortunately, the arrival of the real dad Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) turns Brad's world upside down, as he's forced to compete with the ex-husband's command of...well..everything. He's ripped, can sing and dance, is great with tools, and sports a giant penis. Forced to be something he's not, Brad enters into a war for his children's affection that sees the boys trying to one-up each other, until Sarah threatens to send both to bed without dinner

Perhaps she should have: Daddy's Home is funny enough, but only attacks the low-hanging fruit of mocking the modern 'man' and engaging in twelve-year-old humor that we've honestly seen performed better elsewhere. Wahlberg was the rock behind the success of Ted, and here he actually steals a lot of scenes Ferrell, who himself doesn't seem quite on the game. He's played this type all year with none of them working entirely well. As Dusty moves in on Sarah at a Lakers game, a drunken Brad heaves a ball at a Lakergirl, bottoming out an experience that still has 30 minutes to play out. And its runtime is only 96 minutes. That's what we get from Ferrell now, an overly-extended ab-libbed scene that's become a hallmark of his recent big-screen failures.

Director Sean Anders doesn't help. Ferrell and others like Kevin Hart need a tight leash on their performances, which isn't necessarily what Anders provides here. Daddy's Home places every character in a box without the possibility of growth. There's Brad's boss (Tomas Haden Church) who's only there for odd analogies of his life's failures, Hannibal Burress as Dusty's new friend who eats his way through unfunny jokes, and even Brad's new dog, who humps everything and loves Brad's ankles. Sarah is the one who keeps this story from completely unraveling: she has to make the choice to return to Dusty or forge ahead with Brad. There's a bit of sexual dominance to Sarah: she's clearly in charge of Brad, and an R rating could have revealed a Dominatrix in Cardellini. In many ways, Writers Anders and Brian Burns handcuff themselves into a lower rating and ultimately sacrifice what could have been a far funnier comedy. Hitting Lakergirls in the face with a basketball might be PG-13, but it's not funny.

Don't get me wrong: Daddy's Home does have its funny moments. The bedtime stories are laced with hilarious sexual innuendo (I hope this is stitched together when the Blu-ray gets released), and a scene with a fertility doctor (Danny Cannavale) reveals just how large Wahlberg's 'charge' is. Honestly it's surprising that particular scene didn't result in an R rating. Daddy's Home straddles that line often but continually aims for the shallow end of the pool.

Daddy's Home could have been the best comedy of the year; instead, it's content to pick the low-hanging fruit of weird sexual innuendo, physical comedy, and Ferrell's oft-times rambling comedy. If that sort of game is your thing, then the slow pace won't bother you either, nor will Wahlberg's hilariously clean bedtime stories. Provided you haven't already seen The Force Awakens for a third time, Daddy's Home can provide the needed filler before returning to the tasty treats of a galaxy far, far away.

Daddy's Home is rated PG-13 for profanity, smoking, and sexual suggestions has a runtime of 96 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.


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