First and foremost, let me get this off my chest.
I hate Will Ferrell.
With the exception of the first Anchorman, where he benefited mightily from a great ensemble cast, I’ve never found him to be even accidentally funny. His lazy attitude towards comedy, his complete lack of timing, and his unshakable belief that a flabby, middle-aged, white man with no shirt on is a guaranteed laugh grate on me like a metal leaf rake dragged across a stainless steel floor.
Add Mark Wahlberg to the mix, and it’s like adding peanut butter to chocolate. All the qualities I despise in Mr. Ferrell get toned down to manageable levels and he becomes the straight man who amplifies all the best qualities of the rest of the performers. It was true in their first outing together, The Other Guys, and its true for Daddy’s Home, which comes out on Christmas Day. For this film, Will Ferrell’s character works at a radio station and lives with his wife and two stepchildren. Things become predictably complicated when cool dad Mark Walhberg shows up for a visit. The two alpha males then compete with each other to win the kid’s respect and affection. As fellow Balcony Dad Creed Anthony and I rode together to the sneak preview, I confidently predicted that I would be able to guess every gross-out joke in the movie.
I now freely admit that I was wrong.
Considering Will Ferrell’s filmography, I was expected a lot more raunchy behavior and toilet humor. With the exception of a short bit involving a pet dog, there was none of that stuff. Turns out, Daddy’s Home is really a sweet little film. The pace is quick. The vast majority of the jokes land well with a nice mix of slapstick and situational comedy. Mark Wahlberg’s dry delivery of his character’s outrageous commentary gives just the right tone to what could have been a much heavier-handed performance. Linda Cardellini, who is fast becoming one of my favorite actresses after her roles as Hawkeye’s wife in Avenger’s – Age of Ultron and Meg Rayburn in Netflix’s Bloodline, does a nice job of playing off both of the male leads as Will Ferrell’s wife Sara. If you’re watching the movie and can’t quite figure out where you saw her before; she played Velma in the Scooby-Doo feature films.
Also contributing to the fun is the always fantastic Thomas Haden Church. Here’s an actor who I would pay to watch read the Bismark, North Dakota phone book; he’s that funny. Playing the part of Will Ferrell’s boss, Leo Holt, Church displays the kind of timing that elevates the script from a smile to a laugh. Not that the script is an obstacle here. Instead of taking a definitive stance favoring either father-figure, the screenplay causes the viewer to change his/her allegiance several times over the brisk 96 minute run-time.In fact, there is a scene late in the film where Ferrell and Wahlberg discuss what it means to be a dad that actually left me a little teary-eyed despite myself.
Although not a film that will change your life, Daddy’s Home is definitely an entertaining one, which is ultimately what it sets out to do. For anyone who would like to take a cinematic break from a galaxy far, far away, you will not be disappointed in this family fun film.