Kernel Morgan reviews the latest Will Ferrell comedy vehicle, also starring Mark Wahlberg, DADDY’S HOME, a Dad versus Step-Dad movie that I really didn’t expect much from at all but Morgan has some love for this pairing and its outcome. I am glad we got Ferrell and Wahlberg, they are a great “odd couple.” Originally Ferrell was going to play the biological father with Ed Helms as Step-Dad and then Ferrell went to play the Step-Dad and Vince Vaughn was up for biological father before we got his much better duo. DADDY’S HOME is out now from the folks at Paramount Pictures Australia, it is rated PG (ideal for the entire family) and runs for 96mins. Enjoy Morgan’s review……all the best…..JK.
BY MORGAN BELL
DADDY’S HOME is the new Will Ferrell comedy, his second collaboration with Mark Wahlberg after THE OTHER GUYS. It is signature Will Ferrell over-the-top absurd comedy with a heart-warming ending. Will Ferrell fans will be satisfied with this domestic situation humour-offering, with plenty to relate to for those who are raising school-aged kids. Ferrell plays push-over step-dad Brad Whitaker, who has always wanted to be a father but is left infertile after an x-ray accident, at a time when the biological father (Wahlberg as Dusty Mayron) of his step-kids returns to reclaim his place as the family’s true daddy.
This movie is kind of an extension of a concept introduced in MODERN FAMILY by Jay Pritchard about his step-son Manny upon being disappointed by his biological dad: “The key to being a good dad: Well, sometimes things work out just the way you want. Sometimes they don’t. But you gotta hang in there. Because when all is said and done, 90% of being a dad is just showing up.” (Ep2 S1 The Bicycle Thief). Step-families and their dynamics are relatively new territory for film and TV, outside the evil step-mother or abusive step-father tropes. We are starting to see more examples where all the players are essentially good guys, they just have different styles and need to feel each other out to resolve conflicts in a way that accommodates everyone (STEPMOM, BOYHOOD).
In DADDY’S HOME Ferrell gives a little monologue to Dusty at the end of the film about needing to get along with other parents; “Dusty, look, I hate that guy too, okay, but his son is Dylan’s best friend, so you suck it up. I mean that’s most of what dads do, is take shit. I mean, that’s what we do.” Much of the conclusions of the film point to the compromises we all make to be responsible adults in this modern world. It is a rumination on masculinity and parenthood and fitting in against one’s base instincts.
Dusty embodies the old-school machoism, daring and bold and brimming with physicality. He is roundly perceived as likeable and charming everyone he meets. He gets by in life by being a man’s-man, all cool exterior and can-do attitude. It is a romantic notion of how to be male. He can build things with his bare hands, he rides a motorbike, he is respected by sportspeople, and he doesn’t sweat. Moreover he appears to be some kind on non-descript military man who probably kills people for a living. There is a wonderful metaphor about being able to keep your vehicle within the cones at the school drop-off bay. For all his machismo and excitement he has never put the hard work into being a practical parent.
By contrast Brad is unassertive and conciliatory, putting the needs of his family above his pride. Note I didn’t say above his happiness, because his happiness is tied to providing a safe and comfortable environment for his family. Somewhat hilariously he works for a smooth jazz radio station (a gag recently utilised in indie zombie film LIFE AFTER BETH) for a tall-tales-telling boss Leo (Thomas Haden Church: NED & STACEY, SIDEWAYS, EASY A). Brad and Leo have many amusing interactions that involve stories about Leo’s ex-wives.
There are a couple of ‘jumping the shark’ stunt sequences that involve Brad being seriously injured trying to compete (or just keep up with) Dusty. One involves an out of control motorbike being driven through a house, the other involves jumping from a roof on to a skateboarding half pipe and getting snaggled in some power lines. Those sequences, and the running gag of telling thinly veiled bedtime stories about a king and a step-king, were the weaker points of the film, yet I can imagine them being the highlights for some people, and growing on others.
I am a fan of Will Ferrell. He is a bit of a love him or hate him character actor. My favourite comedy films of his are STEP BROTHERS, ZOOLANDER, and BLADES OF GLORY. In DADDY’S HOME he plays against type, being sensitive and selfless rather than brash and eccentric. His character is much closer to his excellent dramatic roles in EVERYTHING MUST GO and STRANGER THAN FICTION, which may cause disappointment for Ron Burgundy fans, but if you keep an open mind there’s lots to enjoy in this portrait in middle-aged inadequacy.
Kernel Morgan is an author of short fiction, an anthology editor, and a technical writer. Her books include SNIGGERLESS BOUNDULATIONS and SPROUTLINGS. She enjoys scowling at children and bursting bubbles. She can be tweeted at @queenboxi
** All images courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor/publisher – credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.