Will Ferrell has not had a good year. While his usual partner in crime Adam McKay spent 2015 making one of the better films of the year (the dark and wild Oscar bait The Big Short), Ferrell produced the half-baked effort Get Hard, snuck in the intriguing if inert faux-Lifetime movie A Deadly Adoption and now brings us Daddy’s Home, a generic comedy as lazy and aggravating as its title.
It’s easy to see Ferrell’s thinking behind this string of duds. With Get Hard, the towering Ferrell sought to partner with the pint-sized Kevin Hart, perhaps the most compelling comic actor of the year. Unfortunately, their film was a mess of racist and homophobic cliches. A Deadly Adoption, meanwhile, was a left-field experiment wrapped in secrecy, more suited to a five-minute Funny or Die sketch than a 90-minute exercise in testing the limits of irony.
And in Daddy’s Home, it’s clear Ferrell was hoping to recreate the oddball chemistry he shared with Mark Wahlberg in The Other Guys. Unfortunately, that better, funnier, sharper 2010 film was a McKay production – and without the writer-director’s steady hand, Ferrell tends to flounder. (If you have a cherished Ferrell memory, after all, it’s likely thanks to McKay: Anchorman, Step Brothers, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, even the actor’s better-known Saturday Night Live bits were scripted by the former head writer.)
Instead, the erstwhile Ron Burgundy is left in the unsteady hands of Sean Anders, the writer-director who’s made a career of yeah-okay-sure comedies that are often the choices of audiences who should never be trusted to make choices in the first place (Horrible Bosses 2, We’re the Millers). The plots are simple, the direction cookie-cutter and the comedy always incredibly safe. Daddy’s Home is not the world of Peak Ferrell, where jokes fly fast and absurdism rules the day. Instead, it is a land of predictable punchlines, easy sight gags and easier paycheques.
The plot, so much as it is, finds Ferrell playing a milquetoast suburbanite who’s finally made inroads with his two stepchildren, only to have their biological dad (Wahlberg) roar in on his Harley and steal the show. The bulk of the film’s mercifully swift running time is taken up by pratfalls and pranks, all while the obligatory wife character (Linda Cardellini, in a thankless role that borders on workplace harassment) rolls her eyes. Even Ferrell and Wahlberg, who displayed legitimate sparks as eccentric cops in The Other Guys, fail to connect here.
However, there is one element to Daddy’s Home (ugh, even that title is irritating to type out) that manages to elevate the film from cinematic afterthought to genuine curiosity: Hannibal Buress. The laconic stand-up comic – who’s best known for talking about Bill Cosby’s past when hardly anyone else was – has been slowly but steadily making his presence felt on the big screen, with brief but memorable roles in The Kings of Summer, Neighbors and the upcoming James Franco experiment The Disaster Artist.
Here, in that film I can no longer stand to name, he plays a handyman who inexplicably starts hanging around the main characters’ home, raiding their fridge and inserting himself into various squabbles. It’s a bizarre role – a living, breathing non sequitur – that feels like it was lifted from a better, smarter movie. Perhaps one directed by Adam McKay.Report Typo/Error