Sunday, 27 December 2015

Daddy's Home (2015) - Movie Review

The plot: Brad (Will Ferrell) is a step-dad who, after months of work, has finally gotten his kids to accept him as their new dad. All that changes when their birth father Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) comes to town and wants to take his place as the patriarch of the family.

Director/co-writer Sean Anders’ previous work in the last few years have included Horrible Bosses 2 and That’s My Boy, both vastly different in their quality but equally blue in their style. This is a PG movie. It is rather racy for a PG movie, provided you haven’t watched Land Of The Lost before, but a PG nonetheless. This film, regardless of how many dick jokes it makes, still feels like it has been sanitised for a lower rating. After having a monologue about the phrase “Cut the shit” (Oh, how fitting), immediately going into cut-for-TV mock swears. Not just Brad, either. As a result, the rest of the film has this aura of tonal uncertainty, doing its best to give into the Apatow-lite style of comedy at its core but still keeping it okay-ish for the kids to watch. That is not a line you want to be picky about if you can’t adequately do both.

Then again, this film seems completely incapable of doing either, since this is easily one of the least funny comedies I’ve sat through all year. We’re talking Hot Pursuit levels of unfunny here. We’ve got a token black guy constantly calling everyone else racist because this is the whitest film since Three Colours: White, and that’s probably the closest this has to a decent running gag. Really, considering how this wants to care about the drama and how much Brad should win this dick-measuring contest, a lot of the jokes just end up being depressing. I mean, when the film is painting Dusty to be so blatantly the bad guy, the scene where Brad nearly dies isn’t funny. I can count all of one funny line, about the name of the dog Dusty gives to the family, and even though it’s an extremely weak pun, that is still the only one that they deserved as well.

It probably didn’t help the two characters that the majority of the humour revolves around, Brad and Dusty, who are so lazily characterised that I wouldn’t be surprised if Akiva Goldsman did an uncredited rewrite. It’s not just the fact that they respectively the complete opposite sides of the clash, the uptight dad and the laidback dad, but rather because even for broad slapstick these guys go too far. Dusty’s past kept making me think that it was going to be revealed that he made it all up, which they “””cleverly””” hit off at the pass with a reiteration of the Cinnabun product placement but only result in making it worse. Brad, on the other hand, makes Tilda Swinton look like Pam Grier with overly white and effeminate he is throughout. Him being a doormat isn’t funny, nor is how he had to progress past a point where the children wanted him dead. What makes these exaggerations feel even worse is that, for some reason, this film feels like it has a reason to poke fun at “film” moments. There’s a scene where Griff the token, Brad and his boss are talking, after Griff arrives with news, then they proceed to outline the cliché of the male lead chasing someone down to get more information about how they can resolve the film. Griff at one point that the scene they’re talking about would be drawn-out and cheesy. I’d so love to show these people my kettle, so I can beat them over the head with it.

The film actively wants Dusty to be the villain but, with the way they realised him, Brad comes out as the real villain. Even with how passive-aggressive Dusty is, at least his method of getting one on Brad actually involved the kids in the family. Brad ends up so fixated on this petty squabble that, honestly, wouldn’t have escalated if it wasn’t for his own involvement, that he ends up completely neglecting those same kids. The one time he does do something for the kids, it’s out of an act of trying to essentially out-bid him on the kids with presents. This might have been fine if that was the point of it, that fighting between parents/step-parents can end up disturbing their relationship with their children, if it weren’t for the fact that this isn’t even addressed. When the battle resolves itself, through incredibly stupid means at that, all that’s brought up is how it’s good that they aren’t fighting each other any more; nothing about one of the key reasons why they shouldn’t be, just that. There could have been a point about treating the step-father with respect because he cares more about the kids then the birth father. If it did, not only does that argument have a lot more nuance than this film could ever muster but it is also buried under the weak verbal emasculation and occasionally badly CGI-ed slapstick scenes.

It’s a bad sign when the product placement is giving the most effort out of everyone involved. Aside from essentially being bookended by Ford Flux commercials, we keep getting brand names just brought in conversation for no other reason: Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Red Bull, Cinnabuns in particular must have given good wife to be a running motif in this thing. Not since Sex Tape have I seen a film show this little restraint with its marketing ploys.

All in all, I honestly thought I was clear of these types of comedies for the year. Turns out that I was dead wrong, as this is less funny and more just plain depressing for most of it. Ferrell and Wahlberg are both clearly trying to make their material work but, quite frankly, neither of them are playing roles that they should be, especially when coupled with writing that is this tonally confused. I’d honestly recommend Get Hard long before this; as terrible as that was, at least it made better use of Will.

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