Daddy's Home Review - Ferrell And Wahlberg Make A Perfect Double Act

A surprisingly funny movie.

Rating: ˜…˜…˜…˜… Guys, sit down. I've got some pretty shocking news for you: for once in a high profile mainstream comedy, Will Ferrell isn't playing a man child! "What?" I hear you cry. "But that's his schtick - his USP. He's just a tall, funny-looking guy without that." And, yeah, there are moments in Daddy's Home where he delivers out-of-type silliness (and at one point pops out those dance moves he just can't resist showing off), but ultimately his character is one defined by responsibility, with adult life goals and dreams of a nuclear family. It's not totally against type or anything - this ain't the serious movie where a comedian goes straight to prove himself to his peers and hopefully win awards (see: Steve Carrell) - but he is channelling his typical style into something new. That alone makes Daddy's Home worth checking out, although it's really only the start of what this unexpected comedy treat has to offer.
Ferrell's the step-Dad just getting accepted into his new family, only for everything to get thrown out when Mark Wahlberg's biological father turns up with clearly possessive goals. Psychological and physical competition ensue. OK, so let's make this clear right away - on a base level, Daddy's Home is funny. Ferrell and Wahlberg are an ideal double-act, fitting their opposite roles perfectly (better than they did in The Other Guys - although that was kinda the point there) and possessing a nice, odd couple rivalry, while the rest of the cast are all up for a laugh; Thomas Haden Church in particular as the typical "well known actor in a lewd scene stealing role that escalates to ridiculous levels". In general everything's well-pitched - there's even a recurring product placement gag that is so unashamedly blatant it's almost endearing (and is fully funny). But what makes the film so enjoyable is how its script doesn't just coast on the jokes. The situations the characters find themselves in aren't randomly transplanted sketches from a SNL brainstorm, but totally in sync with the parental focus - bedtime fairy tales, building a treehouse, Daddy-daughter dances - and thus mean the story actually feels genuine and gets a suitable resolution that doesn't feel far-fetched.
Comedies of this ilk typically forget about plot entirely until the end of the second act and then suddenly cram it an the expense of humour and momentum, and while Daddy's Home does have a couple of narrative cul-de-sacs, for the most part Sean Anders takes time to build recurring jokes (there's some really clever pay-offs in the finale) and plot throughout. Heck, the film even points this out when unexpected house guest Griff decries the pausing of Frozen lest he become less emotionally invested (oh man, there's so much funny stuff in this). Daddy's Home is the sort of thing that could have turned out trite; a waste of the on-screen talent (in addition to the headline stars, Bobby Cannavale, the most watchable man in the universe, has a small role as a inappropriate fertility doctor) and a slog to sit through. And maybe it should have been - Anders is the man behind such duds as That's My Boy and Horrible Bosses 2, after all (and I bet that'll stop a lot of my peers even giving this one a chance). But it all comes together with enough foresight and gameness from the cast that it's an unexpected treat.
Daddy's Home is in cinemas in the US from 25th December and in the UK from 26th December.

Film Editor (2014-2016). Loves The Usual Suspects. Hates Transformers 2. Everything else lies somewhere in the middle. Once met the Chuckle Brothers.