When it comes to personal meetings people fear or even dread, I dare say a blind date and first up with the prospective in-laws would rate highly. How about getting acquainted with your new spouse’s ex, especially when he’s the father of two young step-children you’re still trying to win over? That’s the contention explored in the family comedy, Daddy’s Home.
The new guy on the block is the awkward Brad (Will Ferrell), while the less than responsible biological father is the fighting fit Dusty (Mark Wahlberg). The latter though just happens to be the world’s coolest dad, whose looks alone are intimidating, let alone his muscularity and his dexterity when it comes to handyman tasks. Brad is the polar opposite – very uncool and very uncoordinated. So when biological dad comes back into the picture after a prolonged absence and ingratiates himself into the lives of his family, Brad goes into a tailspin of insecurity.
The idea behind Daddy’s Home began, as many of the funniest ideas do, with a real-life scenario from hell: producer and co-writer Brian Burns’ first step-father adventures and encounter with his own wife’s alarmingly alluring ex. The concept of an ordinary but devoted step-dad waging a no-holds-barred battle against a daunting super-dad for his family’s affections struck an instant nerve with Sean Anders and his long-time writing partner John Morris. Known for films such We’re The Millers and Horrible Bosses 2, Anders and Morris, joining with Burns, found themselves crafting scenes that kept cranking up the comic stakes.
These two guys vie to become the most illustrious and flawless father imaginable, so it’s a case of oneupmanship and then some. Among the mischief they get up to is introducing the kids to a mangy blind dog, bringing forward Christmas complete with a real pony as a gift and orchestrating a face-to-face meeting with basketball great Kobe Bryant.
Ferrell and Wahlberg had worked together before, as NYPD partners in The Other Guys. They bounce off each other well in Daddy’s Home, from which I freely admit I didn’t expect much, but walked out of the cinema having had some genuine laughs. Such a comedy could easily have been a bridge too far – too forced and too glib. Somehow though, for most part, it actually did provide the chuckles such a family film needs. Of course, it comes down to the one-liners and the sight gags, of which there is no shortage. Some of Ferrell’s nicer-than-apple-pie routines do wear thin, but then they are meant to.
Introducing Griff (Hannibal Buress), a handyman who moves in with Ferrell’s new family provided an unexpected touch; and Thomas Haden Church’s persona, as Ferrell’s boss Leo who bonds with Dusty, gives the script another leg up.
While wrapping up the film (that is, coming up with a decent ending) was always going to be a challenge – and I wasn’t entirely sold on the final 10 minutes or so – Daddy’s Home remains a timely release for the holidays. Rated PG, it scores a 6 to 6½ out of 10.
Director: Sean Anders
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Will Ferrell, Linda Cardellini, Thomas Hayden Church
Release Date: 26 December 2015
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television