“Daddy’s Home” stars Ferrell as a stepdad who must win the affections of his two stepkids when their estranged biological father (Wahlberg) shows up. Linda Cardellini and Hannibal Buress also star as Sean Anders directs.
Will Ferrell is hit-and-miss for most people, but there is a pattern that makes you able to tell if a movie of his will likely be good or not. Was it rated R or PG-13? Because his R films (“Semi-Pro,” “Get Hard”) are usually unfunny while his PG-13 ones (“Anchorman,” “Talladega Nights”) work. However there’s a follow-up question: was the movie written and directed by Adam McKay? Because when it is (“The Other Guys”) the film works but when it’s not (“Land of the Lost”) it doesn’t. And guess what? “Daddy’s Home” was not directed by Adam McKay.
It was, however, directed by Sean Anders, who has directed such comedic gems as “That’s My Boy” and “Horrible Bosses 2” (sarcasm alert). It is somewhat hard to tell direction styles in comedy since camera work is usually standard and there aren’t usually many emotional scenes to have to perfect, but Anders somehow makes his films have a distinct level of laziness and snail-like pacing to them. Just like in his other directorial works, Anders allows his actors to sleepwalk through their roles here, and much of the film feels like the same scene rinsed and redressed for 96 minutes. Also like his other works, Anders feels the need to rewrite the script with his partner John Morris, which is likely how so many unfunny jokes made it into the final cut.
Will Ferrell always gives at least some effort in his works, but there are times where it is clear that it is simply about the paycheck, and this is one of those times (even millionaire celebrities have bills to pay). Ferrell seems toned down from his usual antics and high-strung rants, which sometimes works to the film’s advantage (like “Stranger than Fiction”) but more often than not is a disappointment.
Speaking of disappointment, Ferrell and Wahlberg’s last collaboration, “The Other Guys” was arguably Ferrell’s funniest film, and was what made us all realize that Marky Mark could be funny. Their chemistry in that film was off the charts, so it would be fair to assume that the same energy would come into play here, right? It doesn’t, though; Anders makes sure to smother any hope for that real quick. It’s like how Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn were great together in “Wedding Crashers” and then everyone assumed “The Internship” would be just as fun, but it turned into the opposite of that.
There are some laughs to be had in the film. As Ferrell’s boss Thomas Hayden Church offers several funny monologues about his ex-wives, although he clearly is phoning it in and Cardellini has some genuine moments as the mother, but she is for the most part wasted in a plot-dependent role.
“Daddy’s Home” isn’t an awful film, but it is certainly a frustrating one given that we’ve seen every actor in here be able to deliver hilarious products. Guess it goes to show that even comedies need good directors to keep their actors in check and make things flow, and if any Hollywood exec is reading this review (which, why wouldn’t they be?), let me tell you: Sean Anders will never be that director.