Daddy’s Home **

A silly comedy that never gets off the ground.

Is it worth $10? No

“Daddy’s Home” begins with narration by Will Ferrell. Within a minute the movie stops cold as Ferrell espouses the many virtues of his car – which he mentions by brand name. I began to seethe. “A car commercial? Really? This movie’s going to suck!” screamed the pessimistic part of my brain. A few minutes later, though, the opening credits started and they were set to the Pixies’ “Here Comes Your Man.” The seething stopped. “A movie that opens with the Pixies can’t be that bad,” the optimistic part of my brain pleaded. So, who ended up being right – the pessimist or the optimist? Let’s just say, even a score consisting solely of Pixies songs couldn’t save this stale comedy.

Will Ferrell plays Brad, an amiable radio executive who can’t have children, though he wants nothing more than a family. Luckily, he’s just married Sarah (Linda Cardellini), a mother of two young children from a previous marriage. Brad is the perfect father and husband, but the kids still resent him. Nonetheless, he grows on them and they start to connect. Until: Dusty (Mark Wahlberg), the alpha-male, biological father/Sarah’s ex, returns with the plan of picking up where he left off with her and their children, which leads to an ever escalating battle of (dim)wits between Brad and Dusty as they fight for their family’s affections.

Who was this movie made for? It’s too nauseatingly cutesy for adults and too vulgar for a family film. It features cloyingly “adorable” kids and childish humor so silly and over the top that it renders the film as a live action cartoon. At the same time, it’s filled with surprisingly salty language and sequences that belong in a completely different, more R-rated, movie. 

An example of the humor: Dusty builds a half-pipe in Brad and Sarah’s back yard in order to impress his children, because things like that happen in this movie. Brad tries to win back some cool points by grabbing his old skateboard, jumping off of the roof onto the pipe (!) and doing tricks. He picks up too much speed, though, and is launched into the air, up, up and away, right into electrical wires, which blast him back onto the half-pipe. It’s all just a little too much.
Sarah is there throughout all of this, by the way, and after Dusty announces that Brad’s heart isn’t beating, she just stands there until Dusty tells her to call 911. I bring this up because Sarah is one of the movie’s biggest problems. Sadly, women are often marginalized in male dominated comedies like this one. That, by itself is a big problem, but in “Daddy’s Home,” it’s taken to a whole new low. Sarah isn’t a character. She’s a reaction shot, hovering in the background, making astonished faces as the protagonists act like idiots.

I don’t blame Cardellini, she does the best she can with such a poorly written role. I do blame the writer’s, though, of which there are three (Brian Burns, Sean Anders, John Morris)! Three writers and this is the best they could come up with?

The rest of the film’s problems I’ll just blame on differing tastes in comedy. Although there’s really nothing wrong with it, I didn’t find the film’s central premise (dad vs. step-dad for children’s affection) funny to begin with. It all descends into a “Meet the Parents”-esque comedy of embarrassment where we cringe with each new humiliation suffered by the film’s hero. To be fair, the audience at my screening appeared to love this movie. They roared with laughter at every comic mishap and even applauded by film’s end.

And even I was won over a little bit because of an amusing finale that descends into a dance-off and a final sequence that turns the tables on one of the main characters in a satisfying way. But it’s far too little, far too late.

Near the film’s end, Brad shares a truth about fatherhood. I quote: “That’s what dads do, they take sh*t.” Not being a father myself, I can only suspect that he’s correct. If it is true, though, do your own fathers a solid and don’t heap more crap on them by taking them to see this movie.

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