One exudes mild-mannered milk-soppiness, the other oozes cocky bravado. Yes, Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg are very well cast as chalk-and-cheese rivals in Daddy’s Home, a breezy slapstick comedy about a wimpy step-dad who finds himself competing with his wife’s macho ex for the affections of his family.
Ferrell’s smooth jazz radio station executive Brad Whitaker has been married to divorcee Sara (Linda Cardellini) for eight months and is overjoyed to be a stepfather to her young children, Megan (Scarlett Estevez) and Dylan (Owen Wilder Vaccaro).
A mishap a few years earlier with a dental x-ray machine left Brad infertile, but a dad is what he’s always wanted to be. He’s been throwing himself into the role with well-meaning gusto and has just begun to win over his wary stepkids when their biological dad suddenly turns up.
Wahlberg’s Dusty Mayron is Brad’s total opposite: rugged, rebellious and irresponsible. Brad drives a people carrier; Dusty, full of outlaw swagger, roars up on a huge motorcycle.
Surprisingly, Dusty’s tactics to win back his family don’t involve his superior strength. Instead of flexing his muscles, he uses mind games to undermine Brad, cunningly exploiting his rival’s insecurities to get him into one embarrassing scrape after another.
The sight of Brad repeatedly coming a cropper produces a steady steam of chuckles, but things might have been even funnier if the contest between the rival dads had gotten nastier. The set-up has clear potential for dark comedy. Yet Daddy’s Home doesn’t take the gloves off. At heart, everyone here is essentially good-natured. Which makes the film an amiable watch, not a laugh riot.
Certificate 12. Runtime 96 mins. Director Sean Anders
Daddy’s Home debuts on Sky Cinema Premiere today and is available on Blu-ray & DVD, courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment.