Daddy’s Home, the second teaming of Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, is perfectly content to coast on its own innocuous brand of humor. This PG-13 laugher from a director and stars often known for R rated material takes its simple premise and often manages to squeeze the most out of it. That’s not saying a whole lot, but if you want a watered down and passable experience this holiday season, you could do worse.
The pic pits step dad vs. real dad as Ferrell’s Brad is a committed yet overly emotional radio executive raising two precocious kids with his wife (Linda Cardellini). He’s making headway with them in the step dad department until biological pop Dusty (Wahlberg) enters the picture. Dusty is a careless muscle bound character (who might be Special Forces) who still cares for his children at least as much as his abs. In fact, there are times when Brad reminds chiseled Dusty to put a shirt on, just like Steve Carell admonished him in Date Night. Soon our two leads are competing for their affection with ponies, playoff tickets to Lakers games (quite an unrealistic prospect currently), and tricked out tree houses with corporate sponsors.
Nothing in Daddy’s Home has much edge to it, even when it seems to be trying. We get supporting players like Thomas Haden Church as Brad’s sleazy boss and comic Hannibal Buress as a handy man who takes Dusty’s side in the dad wars. Both might’ve been more fun in a movie that wanted to push the envelope but that’s not what we have here.
Instead, Daddy’s Home drifts on the personality traits of Ferrell and Wahlberg that we usually see in their comedies. Director Sean Anders and his cowriters have no real fascination with exploring any real issues involved with absentee dads or the step fathers that coddle them. That screenplay frequently has the actors doing things that only make sense to move things along (Cardellini’s emotions in particular often veer wildly from segment to segment). The humor is wrung out of the opposite effect of what these two guys look like without their shirts on. Some of this material is undeniably amusing and often rather bland. The leads elevate it about as high as it can get.
When I think of Ferrell and Wahlberg together on the silver screen, it’ll be 2010’s raucous and quite hilarious The Other Guys that springs to mind. Daddy’s Home is the Other Movie, but it isn’t bad.
**1/2 (out of four)