Daddy's Home full movie review - Batty Stepdad v Super Real Dad The Dawn of Parental Justice
On Saturday, April 9, 2016, after stuffing ourselves with seafood at the Shaking Crab in Newton, MA, my friend Mark Sterling and I went to his home to watch a movie on his 70" TV in his furnished basement.
At first, we were trying to decide whether to see the Oscar- winning "Spotlight" or "Bridge of Spies". But, feeling that we had just gotten through a long, tiring, busy week (especially Mark, since he's a gastroenterologist at Tufts Medical Center), we were really in the mood for an outrageous, screwball, dumba$$ comedy. Therefore, we finally decided to rent Will Ferrell's "Daddy's Home" (hereafter "DH"), since it seemed to fill the bill.
Ferrell plays nice, domesticated, somewhat docile stepdad Brad Whitaker, basically happily married to loving, supportive Sara Whitaker (Linda Cardellini). The only downside (besides a case of impotency caused by an X-ray accident at the dentist) is that his stepchildren Megan (Scarlett Estevez) and Dylan (Owen Vaccaro) haven't quite warmed up to him yet. For example, at the beginning of "DH", we see a montage of Megan's drawings showing Brad not only separate from the rest of the family, but with poop on his head. Gamely trying to see the best in everything, Brad comments that in each picture he gets a little closer to the family. At his executive position at VERY light jazz playing radio station called The Panda (hee-hee), Brad's boss Leo Holt (Thomas Haden Church) tries to give him moral support but ends up whining in endless detail about his ex-wives.
Things get more complicated and desperate when Megan and Dylan's real, biological father Dusty Mayron (Mark Wahlberg) suddenly comes back to visit his family. Almost completely, diametrically opposite to Brad, Dusty is a rough-edged, muscular, masculine biker guy. Although Sara is not thrilled that Dusty is trying to ease his way back into the family, the kids are overjoyed. Despite the competition, Brad allows Dusty to remain in the house so he can demonstrate to the kids that he is the better parent. Boy, did Brad ever underestimate how hard this was going to be!
Not only is Dusty handsomer, more confident, and assertive than Brad, he's cooler, handier, and more fun. Brad tries to show than he can be too, but he just ends up literally running into walls and getting the shock of his life while trying to skateboard. He also inadvertently offends a repairman named Griff (Hannibal Buress) who had come to repair the hole in the bedroom wall Brad put there while driving a motorcycle. Even though Brad says that he can fix the hole himself (which set off Griff in the first place), Griff stays as an unwanted house guest and constantly criticizes Brad.
The funny thing is, Dusty does not actively compete with Brad. He is content to lie back, make vaguely sarcastic remarks about Brad's parenting philosophy and his manhood, and let Brad make a pathetic wuss of himself. Brad even goes practically broke by dressing up like Santa Claus and buying a ton of toys for his stepkids and buying $18,000 basketball tickets for courtside seats for them and his wife. This infuriates Sara and causes her to toss both Brad and Dusty out of the house. The only hope for Brad (and Dusty) to make things right is a father-daughter dance.
Make no mistake, "DH" is a crazy-dumb, out-of-its mind comedy. Nevertheless, it's a laugh riot because Will Ferrell is such a versatile comic treasure. He can handle sophisticated, rational verbal comedy, as when he's trying to explain his touchy-feely, New Age-y approach to child psychology, rearing, and discipline (e.g. use dancing instead of fighting to solve disputes). But Ferrell is also not afraid to launch into profane, crude tirades and meltdowns when things don't go his way (e.g. using his chance to sink a basket and win a Disney vacation to instead tear into Dusty and his sneaky attempts to take over the family). Finally, Ferrell fearlessly tackles physical comedy, too, even willing to dive into slapstick and personal embarrassment scenes to get his family back (e.g., besides the motorcycle/skateboard accidents, we have Farrell half-naked at a fertility clinic run by Dr. Emilio Francisco (Bobby Cannavale) and dancing shirtless at the father-daughter dance, and the "classic" basketball court scene, which made Mark and me howl).
Ferrell goes to the limit in "DH" and yet is such a fundamentally decent guy that, even as you're laughing your guts out, you're urging Brad to get his s#!t together and get his family back. Does he? Well, "DH" does prove convincingly that while any idiot can have a child, it takes a very special person to be a parent ? and to drive within the cones.
P.S.: WWE wrestling superstar John Cena appears in "DH". He makes even the chiseled, buff Wahlberg look like the 90-pound weakling who gets sand kicked in his face at the beach.