Ad-libbed bedtime stories are among the film’s funniest moments.
While Will Ferrell’s most celebrated comedies might be the likes of Anchorman, Elf and Step Brothers, perhaps the most underrated is The Other Guys, which saw him team with Mark Wahlberg as a mismatched pair of detectives.
Their chemistry in that film gave us hope for Daddy’s Home, their second collaboration, even though Adam McKay, who has directed many of Ferrell’s best, was out and Sean Anders (Horrible Bosses 2) was in.
Unable to father children of his own due to a dental X-ray mishap, Brad Whitaker (Ferrell) finds great joy in caring for his wife, Sara (Linda Cardellini), and her two kids. Brad’s love for his step-kids isn’t reciprocated, however, and when they find out the biological father, Dusty (Wahlberg), is coming to visit things get even tougher for Brad.
Naturally, Dusty is everything Brad isn’t. Dusty is a man of action, well muscled and handsome while Brad spends his days as an executive for a smooth jazz radio station managed by Leo (Thomas Haden Church), who provides off-colour advice that has little to do with Brad’s situation. In an effort to build an ongoing relationship between the kids and their dad, Brad allows Dusty to stay in the home, which provides opportunities for Dusty to undermine him.
From there, the two of them vie for the children’s affection, constantly trying to one-up each other by focusing on their respective strengths. And, as you’d expect from a Ferrell movie, the situations are often absurd and played primarily for laughs.
As they proved in The Other Guys, Ferrell and Wahlberg work well together, and even though the setups aren’t as strong here they still manage to produce some laughs along the way. The back-and-forth bedtime stories about the king and step-king are among the film’s funnier moments, and they also do some decent physical bits as well.
Probably the best scene in the film occurs when Brad takes everyone to a New Orleans Hornets game, buying some scalped seats for top dollar only to see Dusty one-up him when a Lakers coach knows him and invites the family down to meet Kobe Bryant. It all leads to a half-court short for Brad at halftime, which ends in absurd fashion — the whole thing is made even better when you find out it was done at a real NBA game and fans were told Ferrell would be making the shot. (See more about that stunt and a video of it in our 2015 Basketball Awards.)
There isn’t a ton left for anyone else, but Leo picks up the best lines in his role as Brad’s boss. His efforts to counsel Brad despite all objections are pretty funny, and his stories are intentionally over the top with their absurdity. And hey, there’s a John Cena cameo!
We hate bad special effects, and while clearly Daddy’s Home isn’t the type of film that’s going to rely on them, it does have a bit of CGI… and it’s just awful. The scene with Ferrell on the motorcycle, and the image of it flying out of the second floor of the house, is just so amateurish we still can’t wrap our head around it. There’s also a part with Wahlberg skateboarding with a Go Pro helmet that’s so poorly done we actually wonder if it was intentional.
One of the film’s running gags is that Griff (Hannibal Buress), a handyman fired by Brad when Dusty convinces him they can fix the post-motorcycle damage, ends up living at Brad’s house but believes Brad to be racist. It’s a one-note joke that just never goes anywhere and, outside of a funny bit when Griff and Dusty are enthralled by Frozen, doesn’t pay off with any laughs.
Despite some good isolated moments, Daddy’s Home doesn’t consistently deliver, and that creates some peaks and valleys — and when you’re in the latter the movie feels like it drags even though it’s only around 90 minutes. The conflict between Sara and Brad can be seen coming a mile off, and it’s about as paint by numbers as you can get.
THE BONUS FEATURES
There’s a healthy number of extras here, including a few deleted and/or extended scenes and some outtakes from the bedtime stories, though nothing that’ll move the needle. While many of the features focus on individuals, the best of the lot deals with how they set up the basketball scene, including how they prepped the crowd for Ferrell’s “shot.”
Reuniting Ferrell and Wahlberg made sense, and though there are funny moments in Daddy’s Home it ultimately falls short of Ferrell’s better work, including The Other Guys.