Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
We loved Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg mixing it up in THE OTHER GUYS. They have an established rapport, replete with witty repartee that transcends the silver screen. With director Sean Anders’ DADDY’S HOME, the dynamic duo doesn’t stray too far from the well, playing similar character types. Why mess with perfection? Why take risks? Yes, those questions are slightly facetious. Here, fatherhood anxieties are brought to life in a somewhat refreshingly bombastic, hyper-realized way. While the poignant, uproarious, and at times inappropriately funny comedy achieves a good balance of humor and heart, it’s not always completely successful.
There’s nothing in the world Brad Whitaker (Ferrell) would like more to be than to be called “Dad.” He has a great job as an executive at a smooth jazz radio station and is basking in newlywed bliss with gorgeous wife Sarah (Linda Cardellini). However, her kids from a prior marriage, Dylan (Owen Vaccaro) and Megan (Scarlett Estevez, deliverer of the film’s most crass lines), aren’t quite ready to accept him into their family unit. They actively make it difficult for him. Just as he’s on the precipice of gaining their acceptance, a threat rears its head – a very handsome one at that. Their real dad Dusty Mayron (Wahlberg) breezes into town. He’s all candy and fun and bribery, oozing manliness and sex appeal. He’s pretty suave too. Brad must face his greatest challenge yet: Finding the good in a man who clearly has ulterior motives.
Anders, with help from the screenplay by Brian Burns (whose real-life experience inspired this romp) and John Morris, does a great job of showcasing the modern blended family unit as a healthy relationship. It’s refreshing that it’s not a clone or off-shoot of BLENDED. Hannibal Buress, playing Griff (a handyman who befriends Dusty), is this film’s MVP. His character’s assimilation into the home is hilariously subtle and completely ludicrous in its audacious notions. Near the third act transition, he and Ferrell share in a clever meta movie moment. The anxiety-inducing metaphor of “staying in the cones” is solidly handled, though the filmmakers call it out when they probably didn’t need to. As per usual, Ferrell and Wahlberg are a slam dunk. Plus, I’m in total agreement with this film’s sentiment that conflict should always be settled with dance battles.
On the negative side, genuine heart and sweet sentiments tend to get lost on more than a few occasions strictly so that chicanery can occur. Even so, the goofy-looking CG’d motorcycle through the house, the half-pipe fail, and the basketball game all lack a noticeable punch to take those gags to the next level. There are times where it has to work overtime to pull us back in from the lulls where plot had to be dispersed. It’s also rather striking that this is a film about family that’s not necessarily for families. Kids might have awkward questions about scenes in the fertility clinic with Dr. Francisco Notfunnypants (Bobby Cannavale). For my money, TED 2 has the lockdown on funny things transpiring at a fertility clinic – but thanks for playing, DADDY’S. Kids in the audience were also talking and fidgeting during Brad’s heart to heart with Dusty – a scene the adults were totally into. Cardellini’s character can be a little troublesome; our relationship with her starts on shaky ground as we find out she’s deceived her ex-hubs, omitting she’s newly married. However, she wins us back by film’s end by being the rational adult amidst these two man-children’s madness.
Though it’s not a laugh-a-minute riot, DADDY’S HOME winds up being a perfectly suitable palate cleanser to this season’s stuffy, dark and bleak awards films.
3 out of 5
DADDY’S HOME opens on December 25.