Will Ferrell’s comedy has always been an acquired taste. For me it’s a little hit and miss, even when it comes to his best stuff, like Anchorman. Which is why is surprises me to say that I laughed a lot when watching Daddy’s Home, his latest effort and second collaboration with Marky Mark Wahlberg (with the first being The Other Guys).
The premise is this: Ferrell plays Brad, a bit of a wuss who is stepdad to two kids after marrying the lovely Sarah (Linda Cardellini). As the title suggests, the biological father of the kids, cool dad Dusty, suddenly announced he is dropping by for a visit. Chaos ensues as the two grown men battle it out to one up each other in the daddy stakes.
One of the advantages I had when watching Daddy’s Home was that I didn’t see much of the trailers, which I assume spoiled some of the film’s best jokes. Having also been underwhelmed by The Other Guys, I went into this one with low expectations. And perhaps I was in the right mood for some stupidity, because I certainly laughed a lot throughout Daddy’s Home, easily obliterating the 6-laugh test for a good comedy.
If you’ve seen any Will Ferrell comedy you’ll know his style — moronic, awkward and with a touch of the random, plus some over-the-top slapstick. A lot of the gags in Daddy’s Home are indeed stupid and immature, but for the most part I think it does a good job of being crude without falling into gross-out, vulgar or gratuitous comedy.
The strength of the film still lies in the charismatic paring of Ferrell and Walhberg, who has proven many times that he has the comedic chips when called upon to display them. They already had great chemistry in The Other Guys, but that film felt like it tried too hard to create gags out of the police action premise. This time, being in a domestic setting, the ambitions are lower but as a result the jokes are also simpler and more effective. Part of it also stems from the design of their characters’ personalities, which suit the actors really well and allows them to play off each other with a lot of juvenile fun, but never in a vicious way. Maybe it’s because I’m a father too, because I can certainly appreciate the lengths grown men would go to impress their kids.
The supporting cast is also great, in particular Hannibal Buress, who is funny more because of his delivery than his actual lines, and Thomas Haden Church, who digs back into the archives of Ned and Stacey fora classic deadpan performance. I do wish Linda Cardellini could have been a little more than just the straight-face character though because she can definitely deliver laughs when given the chance.
There are of course a fair share of misses along the way, though in my opinion the jokes that don’t work are easily outweighed by the ones that do. I particularly liked the basketball set piece, which was hilarious just from the perspective of it being a playoff game between the cellar-dwelling Lakers and Pelicans and Kobe still being a dominant player!
In all, this is one of Will Ferrell’s more likable comedies in recent years. While it perhaps doesn’t take full advantage of the satirical possibilities the premise offers, it is a film that plays to Ferrell’s strengths as a comedian while minimising his annoying tendencies that tend to make watching his movies cumbersome after a while. He seems comfortable in this family setting and with the character he plays, and as a result the movie doesn’t overstay its welcome. It might not be a classic or even a memorable film, but as a generic, formulaic stupid comedy, Daddy’s Home is plenty of fun.
3.5 stars out of 5