After the magic of THE OTHER GUYS, a film that makes me laugh even at its most ridiculous, seeing co-stars Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg in DADDY’S HOME is particularly dispiriting. Once again, the former is a straight-laced, slightly priggish good guy, and the latter is the hot-headed epitome of cool thrown together due to circumstances beyond their control. Yet, even the natural comedic chemistry these two have can’t overcome a belabored script that is parsimonious with humor, and profligate with dead zones where comedy goes to flail and die.
They are rivals for the affections of the lovely Sara (Linda Cardellini), current wife of Brad (Ferrell) and ex-wife of Dusty (Wahlberg), and of Linda’s two pre-teen children by Dusty, Dylan (Owen Vaccaro) and Megan (Scarlett Estevez). Brad, sterile due to a dental exam mishap, relishes his role as a dad, packing lunches and seeing the upside of Megan drawing him as the mortally wounded member of the family, rather than the corpse. He is living the dream until Dusty suddenly reappears after years away, arriving to reclaim wife and children with wicked mind games and his compelling biceps. The possibilities for fun should have been endless, but instead the begin and pretty much end in the first 20 minutes, as Brad, pumped up on self-help books, welcomes Dusty only to be undone by overestimating his riding skills when it comes to Dusty’s motorcycle. From there it is a series of predictable and pedestrian scenarios, including a morbidly obvious comparison between the two gentlemen’s organs of generation that will color your thinking about Patrick Stewart forever.
Ferrell as the lovable oaf has an innate charm, but it is wasted on things such as Brad’s extended conversation about yams with Griff (Hannibal Burres), the houseguest who hates him. While Wahlberg, whose ability to deadpan ironic sincerity has few peers, is forced at one point to be the blatant exposition for a breakfast cereal in a painfully awkward plug. He does, however, look fabulous as he is doing one-arm pull-ups, as does Ferrell who, as Brad, can only look on in appropriate wonder.
As for the rest, the kids are cute; Cardellini is long-suffering; and Thomas Haden Church does his best as Brad’s boss who is given to long reminiscences about his past romantic entanglements, one of which involved a Chinese prison. Beyond the motorcycle escapade, there is little recommend this effort, even counting Brad’s unexpected close encounter with electricity. Sparks may fly, but they don’t keep this flick alive.