"Well, that was watchable."
What's worse? A terribly mediocre movie that inspires no reaction at all or a movie that is truly, actively bad? This was the question that I asked myself in the moments after watching Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg's latest comedy Daddy's Home. The first word that comes to my mind when I think about this film is safe. Daddy's Home is a very safe movie. It's a perfectly enjoyable film- most people will get enjoyment out of it and it's sweet at its core. But there's nothing inspiring about the film. It fades nearly instantly from memory and has nothing that manages to be that engaging or interesting. It's a decent enough way to spend a couple hours at the theater if you have nothing to do over your holiday break, but don't expect any memorable characters or striking jokes or......really anything. This is the conflict I always have as a critic- do you punish something that hits all of the right notes in an uninteresting and disposable way? I haven't found the answer to that yet and this film isn't gonna solve that problem. But the fact that it came to my mind while thinking about Daddy's Home should tell you about how little this movie has to offer.
Brad Whitaker is the new step-dad in town, and he really wants to prove that he's there for his children. Brad says that anybody can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad- and he believes that that's what he was born to do. Unfortunately, his wife's children don't quite see it that way. They hate Brad and want him dead. But over time, he makes some progress and becomes very close with his step-kids. Then Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) comes home. His wife's (Linda Cardellini) ex-husband, Dusty is the "cool" parent. A motorcycle-driving, muscular reign of terror who will stop at nothing to win back his family. Despite some initial friendliness, Brad and Dusty know deep down that they don't like each other. And over the course of 96 minutes, they will engage in the biggest Dad vs. Step-Dad competition ever. That's basically the whole movie.
Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg have great comedic chemistry with one another. That was proven by 2010's The Other Guys and they do very well again here. Ferrell succeeds in being the likable guy that goes just a bit overboard all the time and Wahlberg is terrific as the "free spirit" who just can't seem to settle down. It's nowhere near the best that these two have had to offer, but it just shows how appealing this duo can be in nearly anything. But that only works so far. When the material feels so generic and tame, it's hard for Ferrell or Wahlberg to do anything truly great. The screenplay by Brian Burns, Sean Anders and John Morris is funny in short surges, but pretty rote and predictable overall. And in many ways, despite some ribald material that pushes the PG-13 boundaries (especially for a movie pitched as a family comedy), this is a remarkably gentle and harmless comedy. With so many great options in theaters, Daddy's Home amounts to a rather sluggish experience.
But Daddy's Home is not a bad film. It's just one that you've seen before. It's in a slightly different package, but all of the same beats are hit. There's no way anybody can watch this film and go "Wow, I'm really surprised by how this story went!" No. That's legitimately impossible. From the moment that Dusty shows up, you know where this movie is headed and that makes the film ineffective at times. In addition to that, the first half is truly painful and it takes a very long time for the movie to get going. But as it goes along, some of the movie still sticks. A couple of the jokes land, some of the story notes feel genuine and by the end, you'll probably walk out mildly satisfied. Daddy's Home is effective in its predictability and I can't fault it for that. But I can't give it a recommendation either.
For what it's worth, Daddy's Home is a solidly efficient comedy with some fun performances from Ferrell and Wahlberg. I wish that the film was done in a more tongue-in-cheek way, but that's just not the direction they went- despite the occasional raunchiness, this is a family comedy through and through. It's sometimes funny, sometimes dry, but there's an ultimate sweetness that works. It's a very watchable film. But it's gonna fade from your memory pretty much right after you see it. And that's really all that I have to say about this film.
THE FINAL GRADE: C+ (6.2/10)
Image Credits: Screen Rant, Joblo