Starring Will Ferrell. Rated PG.
After so many years spent perfecting his trademark shtick, Will Ferrell can do that whole gullible man-child thing in his sleep. In fact, his role as an overeager stepdad in Daddy’s Home is so completely familiar that he appears to be on a form of comic cruise control. It’s not that he isn’t trying, exactly. It’s just that we’ve seen him play the same softhearted goofball a little too often.
Journeyman director Sean Anders (Horrible Bosses 2) does his best to make his star’s more predictable moves seem fresh. But—despite a few pieces of slapstick, generously described as mildly amusing—this feels like one of those bland package deals put together by Hollywood agents. A twist on Ferrell’s much funnier Step Brothers, it’s content to be a pale reminder of the actor’s more inspired work.
Here, he plays Brad, a nerdy executive at a smooth-jazz radio station who finds himself living the life he’s always wanted, newly married to Sarah (Linda Cardellini), a gorgeous, loving wife who’s grateful to find herself in a stable second marriage. Brad is earnestly committed to becoming the perfect dad. The only wrinkle? His skeptical stepkids (Scarlett Estevez and Owen Vaccaro) are just beginning to warm up to him when Sarah’s ex-husband enters the picture. Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) is an irresponsible charmer determined to win back his wife and kids by taking full advantage of Brad’s trusting nature. Before you know it, Dusty’s living in the family garage and undermining Brad at every turn. As for Brad, he’s so busy trying to prove his love by competing with Sarah’s manipulative ex that his entire life begins to unravel.
Ferrell is too talented not to generate a few tepid smiles on the way to a predictable feel-good ending, but Daddy’s Home makes you wonder if what he does best isn’t running out of steam.