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Daddy's Home Movie Review

Daddy's Home: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack cover art
Daddy's Home is now available on home video. Read our review of the Blu-ray + DVD combo.

Daddy's Home (2015) movie poster Daddy's Home

Theatrical Release: December 25, 2015 / Running Time: 96 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Sean Anders / Writers: Brian Burns (story & screenplay); Sean Anders, John Morris (screenplay)

Cast: Will Ferrell (Brad Whitaker), Mark Wahlberg (Dusty Mayron), Linda Cardellini (Sarah), Owen Wilder Vaccaro (Dylan), Scarlett Estevez (Megan), Thomas Haden Church (Leo Holt), Hannibal Burress (Griff), Bobby Cannavale (Dr. Francisco), Bill Burr (Jerry - Bully's Dad), Jamie Denbo (Doris), Kobe Bryant (Himself), John Cena (Cool Dad)

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In the same month that Adam McKay displays career-advancing growth as director and co-writer of The Big Short, a film that could very well end up earning multiple major Oscar nominations, his longtime creative partner Will Ferrell falls back into his comfort zone in Daddy's Home. This comedy reteams Ferrell with Mark Wahlberg, his co-star in his last PG-13 two-hander,
The Other Guys. That buddy cop action-comedy had McKay as a writer and director. This somewhat more family-oriented one does not. It hails from the less distinguished duo of Sean Anders and John Morris, who together contributed to the screenplays of We're the Millers, Hot Tub Time Machine, Dumb and Dumber To, and Horrible Bosses 2. Like the last of those, Anders takes the helm, picking up the first PG-13 directing credit to date.

Assigning lone story and one-third screenplay credit to veteran TV scribe Brian Burns ("Entourage", "Blue Bloods"), Daddy's Home sees Ferrell and Wahlberg playing variations on their head-clashing Other Guys personas. Ferrell is Brad Whitaker, an exec at soft jazz network The Panda. He is recently and happily married to Sarah (Linda Cardellini) and treats her two children (Scarlett Estevez and Owen Vaccaro) like his own. They're slowly warming to Brad, but the emotional softie's how-to stepdad books can't prepare him for the competition he'll soon face from Dusty Mayron (Wahlberg), the kids' father and Sarah's ex-husband.

Brad Whitaker (Will Ferrell) and Dusty Mayron (Mark Wahlberg) butt heads over the kids they both hold responsibility over in "Daddy's Home."

Dusty is back in town, on apparent leave from some covert military intelligence job he won't state. He's clearly determined to win back his ex and to ensure his kids love Dad more than Stepdad. Dusty is an obvious threat to the insecure Brad, who sees himself as inferior to his predecessor in every way. From turning a slow-moving treehouse project into a full-fledged backyard skateboard ramp to adopting a dog to making cinnamon buns that perfectly resemble Cinnabon's, Dusty quickly falls back into the kids' favor. Brad can't keep his cool in response, getting himself electrocuted with a skateboard stunt and having his story-telling boss (Thomas Haden Church) hire Dusty as the station's slogan reader, a one-time job that apparently pays extravagantly for life.

Daddy's Home keeps on serving up gently diverting situations like these. We recognize that one-upmanship is not really jeopardizing Brad's standing with the family. But Dusty is living with them for a week and soon he, the kids, and the plumber he rehired after convincing Brad to fire (an amusing Hannibal Buress, proving he's more than just the start of Bill Cosby's unending nightmare) are all getting swept up in Frozen together.

Ferrell and Wahlberg already proved their chemistry in The Other Guys, a movie that only seems better with time, even if it has never been as fully embraced and widely quoted as other McKay-Ferrell jams Anchorman, Step Brothers, and Talladega Nights. This reunion coasts on that chemistry, even if it rarely finds excellent ways to put it to use. There is the impression that the film was found in post-production, as a plot involving Brad's fertility (his ability to bear children has been compromised by an errant dental X-ray procedure) comes and goes nowhere in particular (with Bobby Cannavale as a highly respected, erratically-accented specialist).

All the stepfather self-help books in the world can't prepare Brad Whitaker (Will Ferrell) for what is about to happen. Dusty Mayron (Mark Wahlberg) is back in town and ready to again be part of his children's lives.

There's a bit filmed at a real NBA game (complete with Kobe Bryant's final big screen credit as an active player) that justifies the abundant Lakers gear on display without really paying off. There's a big motorcycle accident gag that relies on goofy-looking CGI. A few other running jokes, including one involving that suspiciously accurate Cinnabon,
do hit their marks and make us forgive the film's general lack of imagination, occasionally dubious product placement, and reliance on commonplace emotional manipulation. The big climax is among those scenes that call back and it kind of works. It's the type of thing you'd appreciate more as an aspiring comedy screenwriter than as a studio executive or a paying moviegoer.

I suspect that critics won't be enamored with the film, pointing out that Ferrell is up to his old tricks (which given his track record of commercial success, he certainly could be resorting to more often than he is). The toothless and formulaic comedy may be more on the order of something like Kicking and Screaming than his best material, but hey, I enjoyed Kicking and Screaming and even ten years of cynicism and saturation later, I found Daddy's Home to be a pretty good time, if not something you'll be compelled to revisit and quote regularly.

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Related Reviews:
From Writers Anders & Morris: Horrible Bosses 2 We're the Millers Hot Tub Time Machine She's Out of My League Mr. Popper's Penguins
Directed by Sean Anders: That's My Boy
Now in Theaters: The Big Short Joy The Hateful Eight Concussion The Revenant Anomalisa
Will Ferrell: The Other Guys Get Hard Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy Step Brothers Blades of Glory
Mark Wahlberg: The Fighter Pain & Gain The Gambler Invincible Transformers: Age of Extinction

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Reviewed December 25, 2015.

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