Daddy’s Home is one tired joke after the next”

by Steve Pulaski

“Daddy’s Home” is a questionable film on all cylinders, not only for its cynical, truly mean-spirited temperament just in time for the holiday season, but by it’s marketing approach. This was a film that seemed to be communicated through advertisements and TV commercials, to my judgment, a movie for young children. I wasn’t alone in this assumption because, when I attended my screening, my demographic of eighteen and older were undermined by the barrage of young children in the audience. If you pay attention to the zippy, blink-and-you-miss-it previews for “Daddy’s Home,” you’ll take note that this is indeed a PG-13 film, and a hard PG-13 film, if I do say so myself. Jokes about sex, nudity, male and female genitalia, and innuendos run rampant in the film, but I just can’t help but think that this is a film that won’t appeal too much to people older than eighteen, who will likely perceive the premise as being too childish, nor parents of kids younger than twelve who probably, knowing full well what they’re in for when they see this film, wouldn’t allow their little angels to see it.

The parents who decide to settle for “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip” these next few weeks, or even “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” for the second or third time, will certainly not miss much if they choose to skip “Daddy’s Home.” As stated, this is a mean-spirited, downright unfunny slog of a comedy featuring two proven charismatic and capable actors exhausting the lowest common-denominator of humor. It’s a tired comedy about pitting a square and a rebel together and having them desperately try to “one-up” one another throughout the entire course of the film. Only fitting, because this is one of the most desperate comedies I’ve seen all year, so anxious and rambunctious to provoke a laugh it leaves no poorly executed slapstick circumstance of situational setup unexploited.

Daddy’s Home
Directed by
Sean Anders
Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Linda Cardellini
Release Date
25 December 2015
Steve’s Grade: D

The film revolves around a mild-mannered radio executive named Brad (Will Ferrell), who has just gotten married to Sara (Linda Cardellini), a woman with two kids from her first marriage to a hot-shot, motorcycle-driver named Dusty (Mark Wahlberg). Brad has been struggling to earn the respect and love from Sara’s two young children since the four moved in together, and things are only complicated when Dusty decides to drop by to meet Brad and spend a week. What unfolds is a week full of ribald situations that tests everyone’s patience, but particularly Brad’s, who is far too collective to say anything negative to Dusty or stick up for himself.

Interesting side characters come in the form of Brad’s boss, played by the always affable Thomas Haden Church, who ostensibly has an unrelated story for everyone of Brad’s circumstances, Hannibal Buress’s Cliff, a handymen who accuses Brad of racism under the stupidest of circumstances before proceeding to move in with him per Dusty’s request, and a fertility doctor, played by the now-ubiquitous Bobby Cannavale, who tries to help both Brad and Sara conceive a child of their own.

“Daddy’s Home” is a constant, desperately unfunny array that stems from the insecurity of both leads – Brad’s in the respect that he’s being “dethroned,” so to speak, in his own home, and Dusty’s because he’s no longer the man his children call “dad.” Many films could be made to show the real sadness, pain, and insecurity this kind of thing does to the male ego – a story almost reminiscent of the tearjerking classic by Toby Keith “Who’s that Man” – but the approach here is simply unacceptable. I call “Daddy’s Home” a mean-spirited slog because it’s nothing more than a showcase for buying the love and affection of children through gifts and early Christmases (quite literally); in a time when the marital success rate in America is less than a coin-flip and more and more children find themselves the victim to divorce, it’s frustrating to see a film capitalizing on buying affection from children rather than naturally summoning it.

But of course, the latter wouldn’t inspire such a lousy family comedy to take up screens away from films late last month and earlier this month that were strong and commendable efforts. “Daddy’s Home” is one tired joke after the next, featuring Will Ferrell, hot off his egotistical bout of playing for ten different teams in the MLB earlier this year, in a grating and consistently unfunny performance, and Mark Wahlberg in what looks to be a role he could sleepwalk through. This is their first comedy together since “The Other Guys,” a thoroughly enjoyable film, but their brand will need to continue to flourish into more risque or challenging territory than a film about daddy issues taken in the most brazen and unfunny way possible.