When Daddy’s Home was being sold to the public back in December of 2015, the central theme of the campaign seemed to be that the movie would feature lots of instances of Will Ferrell falling down and putting himself in embarrassing situations. And the movie pretty much delivered on that promise, though it’s not nearly as funny as the studio would have liked you to believe at the time.
Ferrell plays Brad, a bland but exceedingly nice and patient guy who has married Sara (Linda Cardellini) and become the stepdad to her two kids. Entering the picture is Dusty (Mark Wahlberg), Sara’s ex-husband who thinks he wants to win her back. He believes the way to do that is to turn everyone against Brad and so the two engage in a “dad-off” with Brad being his congenial best and Dusty being the worldly, hyper-masculine one as they both strive to impress Sara and the kids and prove they’re the one they should choose.
The movie has so little to say it’s almost shocking. The kids – and even Cardellini’s Sara – are afterthoughts, pawns to be played as the two male characters jockey for position as the alpha. So the entire plot revolves around Brad and Dusty trying to mark their territory and claim Sara as their own while spending money like it’s not a real thing on stunts and tricks to make the other one look lesser in her eyes.
Wahlberg is at least somewhat engaging as Dusty, who’s confident, competent and the prototypical alpha male that attracts everyone’s attention and interest. Ferrell, though, is the most checked-out I’ve ever seen him. I’m not sure if he’s just tired, if he realized he was getting a thankless role or is just ready for a new challenge, but he didn’t appear to even be trying to make Brad anything other than a one-note punchline. At least the lazy performance doesn’t rise to the level of Adam Sandler’s palpable disdain for the audience.
All of that aside, the campaign sold the movie pretty accurately. There are big chunks of what passes for the story that are missing from the marketing, but it never reaches the point of actually inaccurately selling the movie. It promises 100 minutes of Wahlberg and Ferrell going off against each other in exceedingly outrageous ways and that’s pretty much what it delivers. But audiences should know that aside from one or two laughs, there’s not much here that’s funny or engaging, something that should be laid at the feet of the lackluster performances, a lazy script and flavorless directing that offers nothing in the way of rhythm or style.