It’s not been easy for Will Ferrell to find the perfect comedic sparring partner. For every Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, David Koechner, or John C. Reilly, there’s been an Andre Benjamin, Nicole Kidman, Jon Heder or Kevin Hart.
But with 2010’s The Other Guys, Mark Wahlberg -- having been specifically picked out by writer and director Adam McKay as well as Will Ferrell -- rather surprisingly proved just how amusing he could be in a mainstream comedy, especially with Ferrell opposite him as the perfect foil. That was in an R-rated film, though, where Wahlberg had more freedom to stretch his potential comedic muscles into raunchier territories. Daddy’s Home is firmly aimed at a family audience. With this in mind, I assumed that it had been watered down for mainstream consumption, which meant that I entered with a level of trepidation I usually reserve for an Adam Sandler film.
Sure my worries were slightly proven right, since Daddy’s Home is utterly predictable, and has the same infuriating, meandering structure that has become a staple of Hollywood comedies in recent years, which sees scenes simply piling up on top of each other rather than build in a cohesive manner. But it’s still worthwhile for two reasons: Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell.
With Daddy’s Home, the pair are pigeonholed as the goofy, secure step-father (Ferrell) and edgy, cool biological dad (Wahlberg) from the off, with the comedy then coming from every angle you’d expect. But the jokes still produce laughs. Sure, they’re not original, and, at times, you can see the punchlines arriving a mile off. But Wahlberg and Ferrell work so well together on screen together that you’ll be willing to forgive the film’s obvious foibles.
Even scenes that you’ve seen dozens of times before, such as the lame step-father trying to one-up his more impressive rival and constantly being humiliated, still work because of the intensity that they each bring to their characters, while neither selfishly try to hog jokes and instead allow the other the room to be funny.
It’s not just Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell who thrive. Every time Thomas Haden Church, Bobby Cannavale and, especially, Hannibal Buress are on screen, they’re hilarious, while there’s a rather stupendous last joke that rounds the film off in the neat little package that it’s constantly striving for. It also helps that there is a flawed humanity to both Will Ferrell’s Brad Taggart and Mark Wahlberg’s Dusty Mayron that means you’re able to understand both of their plights, while there are actually some nice, non-judgmental touches about the construct of the modern family and what it means to be a good father.
Sure, these aren’t done in a subtle manner, but it still adds to an overriding warm aura that permeates throughout Daddy’s Home. And while the more cynical of you will find Daddy’s Home overly formulaic and cheesy, it still delivers a nice blend of laughs and heart that it is perfect for the holiday season. Only once you’ve seen Star Wars, though. Obviously.