Daddy's Home movie full length review - Wahlberg carries the movie
"Daddy's Home" is uneven. Certain aspects are brilliant and quite funny, while other aspects somehow manage to be simultaneously grating and tedious.
I loved Dusty's relentless passive-aggressive manipulation and Machiavellian schemes, the moppets' undisguised hostility and some of the supporting characters, particularly Griff, Leo and Dr Francisco. There's a clever reversal of fortunes at the midpoint and another in the denouement. However, the movie also has a few issues.
At various points other characters tell Brad to his face how much they dislike him. It's difficult to understand why anybody in the movie or the audience would like Brad, who is weak, sniveling, obsequious to a fault, insecure ? the usual character faults that Ferrell's characters exhibit, but even more exaggerated. Yet, he has a beautiful wife who is 100% devoted to him. One can understand why she would be drawn to somebody who is the opposite of her first husband, but not why she is drawn to Brad, particularly when her children despise him so thoroughly. One would have expected her to condition marriage on his first gaining their confidence. Brad is apparently sterile, but not impotent, which interferes with their mutual desire to have another child. He overcompensates by throwing himself into all manner of parental activities, from chauffeuring the children to packing lunches with dreaded inspirational notes.
As in many comedies and rom-coms, it isn't clear what Brad does for a living. He earns a comfortable salary working for company that provides branding and content to local radio stations, but the only thing we see him do is audition talent and he doesn't seem to be very good at it.
Dusty is some sort of Renaissance man who is extraordinarily capable in all areas of human endeavor and glibly deceives everybody as to his capabilities in other areas. He makes friends quickly and has an incredible network of influential friends, all of whom owe him favors, much like Jack Nicholson's character in "Anger Management." The character is interesting, well acted and fun to watch, but like Brad, his success seems too easy. He completes a complex construction project under the radar in less than a day. Both characters seem to have too much money. We're not quite certain what Dusty wants to accomplish, whether he simply wants to drive Brad away or if he sincerely wants to reunite with Sara and his children.
The film is basically a bromance between Brad and Dusty. Both characters are exaggerated and raise their initial rivalries to absurd levels without any difficulty.
Meanwhile Sara (Cardellini) displays the patience of a saint as Brad and Dusty compete to see who can spoil the children more extravagantly and her life is thrown into turmoil by unwelcome house guests, vacillations of allegiances, life-changing events, betrayals of trust and significant destruction of property.
I've never been much of a Will Ferrell fan, considering his comedy best enjoyed in small doses. He was brilliant in "The Producers," amusing in "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery" and enjoyable in "The Other Guys." Here, his brand of comedy becomes a bit monotonous and grating.
Wahlberg carries the film. Although his talents seem superhuman, he is much more grounded. He plays the straight man with deft timing, sings, dances and tells bedtime stories in a baroque voice. He's the type of antagonist you love to hate. He manages to be convincingly duplicitous, particularly when expressing sympathy over Brad's misfortunes.
Technical aspects are adequate, although there is a jarring shift in POV near the end. The entire film is told from a first-person perspective. Every shot is either Brad or Brad's POV, until the end when Dusty has a voice-over. The Ford product placements were a little heavy-handed, with endorsements written into the dialogue. One gag concerning a feminine hygiene product seems incomplete. A quick search revealed various alternate uses for the product, but none really seemed to explain why it was left where it was. Camera movement was noticeable in some shots, but not distracting.
Overall, the good parts are pretty good, but the bad parts are pretty bad. I had to pause playback about five times because it was just too annoying to endure in one sitting. But the movie had enough jokes and interesting performances that I eventually returned to it. The final scenes are a bit formulaic, but well executed with an interesting twist and a strong performance.