The latter half of 2015 brings us two new releases that easily have the potential to be the most annoying films of the year. They are “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip” and “Daddy’s Home.” After enduring Will Ferrell’s performance in “Daddy’s Home,” I think I might have been better off with the intentionally-annoying Chipmunks. This is yet another movie where Ferrell’s shtick basically consists of him screaming and being obnoxious. Ten years ago, I was a defender of this style, arguing that he was bringing energy to his roles. I’ve since grown weary of it, and I can only imagine how grating it must be for people who didn’t like it in the first place.
Ferrell plays Brad, loving but unappreciated stepdad to Dylan (Owen Vaccaro) and Megan (Scarlett Estevez). Brad has been married to their mom (Linda Cardellini) for some time and they’re just now starting to show signs of warming up to him. But then out of the blue, the kids’ long-lost biological father Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) invites himself over for an extended stay. The kids are overjoyed at the idea of Dusty coming back and Brad feels pushed aside. If he doesn’t win their affections now, he might lose them forever.
He’s not wrong to feel this way. Dusty is blatantly trying to win “his” family back, and he scores points effortlessly. Dusty, according to this film, is basically the coolest guy in the world. He rides a motorcycle, travels the world, is friends with celebrities, is in tip-top physical shape, and is more skilled than Brad in pretty much every area. Brad tries over and over to outdo Dusty, only to fail in increasingly spectacular fashion.
I’ve used the word “win” now twice to describe what Brad and Dusty are trying to do with the kids, and that’s appropriate. Both are being selfish and not really doing what they do with the kids in mind. Dusty wants to have a family to call his own, but doesn’t seem to have long-term plans to contribute to the household, as illustrated by his aversion to mundane activities like dropping the kids off at school. Brad is happy to do these things, and we’re supposed to root for him because he’s willing to work harder (as opposed to Dusty’s grand-but-easy gestures), but I kept getting the feeling that he’s doing all of this so he can feel better about himself without caring much about the kids. Sure, he’s been doing this since before Dusty showed up and he had an opponent, but he’s a little too quick to proclaim himself a great dad with suspiciously little mention of his actual impact on the kids’ development.
The humor is mostly based on Brad embarrassing himself and Dusty putting himself over. Thomas Haden Church plays Brad’s boss who’s always telling inappropriate stories about himself. Bobby Cannivale plays a fertility doctor who’s quick to inappropriately compliment to Dusty’s body over Brad’s. Hannibal Buress plays a handyman friend of Dusty’s whose mere presence is inappropriate. Seriously, the main gag with the character is that he’s just… always there.
If you’ve ever seen a comedy about a klutz desperately trying to impress people and things always going wrong, you’ve seen “Daddy’s Home.” The only halfway decent gag is the concept of conflict resolution through dancing, and even then, Ferrell screaming dance terminology like “served” detracts from those scenes. Did you like the humor in the two-minute trailer for this movie? If you didn’t, I doubt you’ll like this movie because it’s 94 more minutes of the same thing. If you did, I still doubt you’ll like this movie, because the humor has 94 more minutes to get old.
“Daddy’s Home” is rated PG-13 for thematic elements, crude and suggestive content and for language. Its running time is 96 minutes.
Robert Garver is a graduate of the Cinema Studies program at New York University. He has been a published movie reviewer since 2006.