Kernel Rating (out of 5):
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 96 minutes
Age Appropriate For: 14+. Sex jokes and stereotypical gender roles dominate this movie. There is a lot of focus on male genitalia and how it relates to masculinity, including one scene where men compare their private parts; lots of talk and jokes about sex, including innuendos about sexual prowess; some kissing; some gross-out humor, including jokes about defecating and masturbation; a bullying subplot; some cursing and jokes about racism and suicide; and some violence, like a motorcycle crash and an electrocution.
‘Daddy’s Home’ pairs Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell as dads whose parenting styles contrast in every single way. Their weird chemistry provides occasional laughs, but the film recycles more tired gender clichés than it offers up memorable humor.
By Roxana Hadadi
Practically every joke in “Daddy’s Home” has something to say about gender roles, and that something is always the most obvious message: that tough men can be sensitive, that sensitive men can be tough, that women are beautiful objects to be fought over. That retread of mostly outdated themes is all “Daddy’s Home” offers, suffocating the weird chemistry that Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg have into something staid and exhausting.
If you haven’t seen the 2010 comedy “The Other Guys,” you should. It’s one of the best comedies of the last decade and it pits Ferrell and Wahlberg against each other to hilarious results. At first, “The Other Guys” presents the two actors as you would expect, with Ferrell as a nerdy accountant for the police department and Wahlberg as a macho detective, but every bit of additional character development revealed something strange—that Ferrell’s character was a major babe magnet in college, that Wahlberg’s character knows how to dance ballet—that worked against what you thought you knew about these men.
It was a great movie! Ferrell and Wahlberg were great in it together! But “Daddy’s Home” is not a great movie, and that’s because it fails to subvert expectations like “The Other Guys” did. It fails to do much of anything, really, except make desperate joke after desperate joke about male genitalia. And this is a movie that describes itself as “family-friendly” in marketing materials! Now that’s a joke.
In “Daddy’s Home,” Brad (Ferrell, of “The LEGO Movie”) is a loving stepfather to the two young children his wife, Sarah (Linda Cardellini, of “The Avengers 2: Age of Ultron”), had with her ex-husband, Dusty (Wahlberg, of “Transformers: Age of Extinction”). Brad isn’t the most exciting guy—he’s an executive at a smooth-jazz radio station, and he drives a dependable family car—but he adores his stepchildren, volunteering at extracurricular events, driving them to and from school, and generally being supportive and sensitive.
But the kids don’t like him, mainly because he’s not Dusty, who through a series of silly events ends up staying with Sarah and Brad. Dusty rides a motorcycle, knows how to beat people up (it’s hinted that he’s an assassin), is a fantastic singer, and basically is the “cool dad” every kid wants. Plus, he wants Sarah and the children back in his life—and so outmaneuvering Brad to win back their love becomes his goal.
That conflict causes a variety of mind games and physical antics, with Dusty and Brad competing against each other in every possible way, from skateboarding to gift giving, to court Sarah and the kids’ affection. Who will they end up choosing?
“Daddy’s Home” doesn’t really pretend like the film’s conclusion will be a mystery, but it is disappointing how the movie takes the easiest routes possible to show the differences between Dusty and Brad. Thanks to scenes where the men compare genitalia and where Sarah compliments what Dusty was like in bed, it’s clear that the movie never goes further than “lame stepdad” for Brad, “cool fun dad” for Dusty, and “baby crazy” for Sarah. That lackluster character development makes for very-low stakes, and the movie’s inability to do anything remotely original makes it utterly forgettable.
There are only a couple of scenes at the end of “Daddy’s Home” that make the film even remotely enjoyable, and that’s because they do what “The Other Guys” did—alter what you expect from Ferrell and Wahlberg. Those scenes, which create some confidence in Ferrell and some concern in Wahlberg, go a long way. Too bad the rest of “Daddy’s Home” doesn’t do the same thing.
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