DADDY’S HOME

Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Sean Anders

Stars: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Linda Cardellini, Thomas Haden Church, Hannibal Buress, Scarlett Estevez, Owen Vaccaro, Bobby Cannavale, John Cena.

Comic actor Will Ferrell hit the heights with Anchorman, but lately he seems to be churning out a surprising number of shrill and unfunny dud comedies, what with the dire Get Hard featuring in a number of critics’ lists of the worst films of the year. And now his latest effort is another dull and painfully unfunny dud.

Ferrell plays the mild mannered and insecure Brad Whitaker, who has married the beautiful Sara (played by Linda Cardellini, from the live action Scooby Doo movies, etc). Unable to father children of his own due to an accident during a cisit to a dentist, he is trying to win over the affections of her two young children Megan and Dylan (Scarlett Estevez and Owen Vaccaro). Megan produces crude drawings in which Brad is often depicted as being injured or worse, while Dylan seems to be bullied at school. Just as Brad seems to be making a breakthrough and connecting with the two, their biological father comes back into the picture.

Dusty Mayron (played by Mark Wahlberg) is something of an enigma, but he hints at a past involving Special Forces. He is muscular, handy with tools, and his presence makes the awkward Brad feel even more insecure. Dusty regularly tries to undermine Brad’s status, and integrate himself back into the family. The two men vie for the affections of the kids. They try to outdo each other, and the testosterone fuelled rivalry and oneupmanship reaches some outlandish levels.

Brad’s attempt to outdo the macho Dusty often result in painful failures. There are several scenes of broad physical slapstick comedy, including Ferrell being electrocuted after coming off a homemade skate ramp and becoming stuck in a plasterboard wall after trying to show off his motorbike riding skills.

Written by the team of Sean Anders and John Morris (Sex Drive, We’re The Millers, Horrible Bosses, etc) Daddy’s Home could have been quite a funny comedy dealing with themes of family, masculinity, and the challenges of fatherhood, but director Anders seems to have misjudged the material and aimed at the lowest common denominator. Both the tone and the pacing are uneven, and many moments fall flat. Anders’ direction lacks energy or inspiration and much of the occasionally crude humour is more miss that hit. Most of the best moments appeared in the trailer.

The ending itself is also problematic, and it seems as though the writers struggled with a satisfactory way to end the central dilemma. The rather thin plot would probably be better suited to an episode of a television sitcom than a 90 minute feature film, where the premise quickly runs out of steam.

Ferrell and Wahlberg worked well together and established a combustible chemistry as an odd couple pair of bickering cops in the action comedy The Other Guys, but here they tend to grate and their shtick becomes a little wearying and tiresome. They fail to recreate their previous chemistry.

Ferrell continues to play boorish, obnoxious characters, and there is a familiarity to his performance here, which tends to be one dimensional and grating. Ferrell continues to be frenetic, overwrought and overbearing as the dorky Brad, and he willingly suffers a number of physical humiliations in chasing cheap laughs. Wahlberg brings more flair, swagger and macho posturing and nuance to his role as the disreputable and sleazy alpha male Dusty, and he steals many scenes away from his costar.

An underused Thomas Haden Church (Sideways, etc) brings dry humour to his role as Leo, Brad’s boss at the local radio station, who unexpectedly bonds with Dusty, and his salacious personal anecdotes are some of the highlights of the film. And Hannibal Burress provides a few uncomfortable laughs as Griff, the affable but free loading handyman who also temporarily moves in with the family, while Bobby Cannavale is absolutely wasted as a fertility expert.

If Ferrell continues to churn out such underwhelming, low brow run of the mill dross as Get Hard and Daddy’s Home, he is in danger of becoming another Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Adam Sandler or Kevin Hart, some of the unfunniest men making cringe worthy comedy movies at the moment. And unfortunately, Daddy’s Home is unlikely to change his fortunes. This is another shrill, grating and unfunny comedy.

★☆

 

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