Movie review: Daddy’s Home is steeped in silly stereotypes

The film has a sweet message about the challenges and rewards of fatherhood, but it would have benefited from a little more smarts.

Mark Wahlberg, right, and Will Ferrell in Daddy’s Home. Paramount Pictures via AP
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Daddy’s Home

Director: Sean Anders

Starring: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg

Two stars

If you've seen a preview – or even just a poster – for Daddy's Home, you can probably guess how the movie will play out.

Will Ferrell is buttoned-up, strait-laced and dutiful, the newly-wed stepdad delighting in instant fatherhood. Mark Wahlberg is tough, edgy and mysterious, the biological father who disappeared. The film is about their battle for the kids’ affection: dad versus stepdad (which is also the film’s slogan).

We already know that, in the end, they’ll do what’s best for the kids. This is a Hollywood movie, after all.

So it is really all about the journey, and writer-director Sean Anders (Horrible Bosses 2) doesn't take his story or his stars any further than what is expected.

That’s not to say it’s all bad, especially if you like alpha-male puffery. Ferrell and Wahlberg play familiar, predictable archetypes, but they are charming, charismatic movie stars being daft on screen.

Ferrell is Brad, a quiet, stable guy, eight months into his marriage to Sarah (Linda Cardellini). He always wanted to be a dad, and is excited about the relationship he is developing with her two young kids.

That fledgling bond is threatened by a surprise visit from Dusty (Wahlberg), Sarah’s ex-husband and the kids’ father. The dad-fight is on. Dusty is everything Brad is not. Brad works at a smooth-jazz radio station, and cries every time the kids say something sweet. Dusty is muscular, freewheeling and hints that he’s a mercenary – he does lots of shirtless push-ups.

The tough guy-nice guy dichotomy is a set-up for some stereotypical masculine showdowns: building stuff, handling bullies, comparing physical attributes.

It could be cute, but Brad is so naive as to be unbelievable. This grown man never once suspects manipulation from a handsome, mysterious love rival?

Then there’s a somewhat sexist subplot about virility and maternity. Brad is sterile, and though Sarah is happy with her kids and career, what she really wants is another baby.

Ultimately, Daddy's Home has a sweet message about the challenges and rewards of ­fatherhood. It even advocates for dance-offs as a means of conflict resolution. It's pure silliness that would have benefited from a ­little more smarts.

Daddy's Home is out in ­cinemas on January 7.

* The Associated Press