Director: Sean Anders
Stars: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg
2 (out of 5) Globes
There’s an ocean of difference between the Will Ferrell entries directed by his equally out-there director, Adam McKay — “Anchorman,” “Step Brothers” — and the Ferrells only produced by him. McKay was otherwise engaged, trying to educate the world about economics with “The Big Short,” when “Daddy’s Home” was in the works. As such, quality control is even lower than usual. It has bright spots: a promising premise, a gamely dorky Ferrell, a decent gag now and then and a stable of ace ringers. But the rest of it is a black hole, almost — if not quite — sucking all the peppered goodness into oblivion.
Ferrell is Brad, a family truckster-loving suburbanite married to Linda Cardellini’s Sarah. She came into his life with two kids in tow, and Brad never met their father until he suddenly re-enters their lives. He’s Mark Wahlberg’s Dusty, a leather jacket-and-motorcycle loner who whimsically decides he’d like to play more of a force in his children’s lives. What follows is a pissing contest between the two men, Brad trying, badly, to seem cool and Dusty trying to maintain cool while cozying into his ex’s no-longer-wild graces.
Wahlberg and Ferrell were an inspired outside-the-box duo in the McKay-helmed “The Other Guys,” in which the former was even more button-up and the latter actively volatile. That film dragged them through a twisty, absurdist plot, every inch of the thing stocked with inspired gags. “Daddy’s Home” is more shambling, occasionally family-friendly (and, on the occasion of some dick jokes, not). Big set pieces, like where Brad tries to mount Dusty’s bike or when he meets a half-pipe, fall miserably flat. Sojourns to Brad’s predictably lame job — a smooth jazz station, of course, aptly called “The Panda” — do not, especially as it boasts reliable scene-stealer Thomas Haden Church. Even when thumb-twiddling through its plot, at least there’s always Hannibal Buress, who, as ever, has the uncanny ability to make every line, even ones he didn’t ad-lib, hilarious.
“Daddy’s Home” concerns “blended” families, and it’s at least three decades late, as divorce and unique family sitches have been the norm since the “My Two Dads” epoch. But this is a “blended” comedy. Actively schizo, it veers drunkenly in quality, unable to be pinned down as a time-waster or occasional winner. One second it’s yet another movie that thinks Ferrell strutting in slow-mo to blaring rap is inherently funny; the next it’s another Ferrell movie that finds nasty delight in beating up kids for no reason. It wastes Cardellini’s Sarah — who at least is given some agency, no longer turned on by her ex’s oily charms — but it also provides a ridiculous dance-off climax. Call it a mostly harmless draw.