Will Ferrell stars in Daddy's Home as Brad Taggart, a successful executive at a New Orleans smooth-jazz radio station who's married to Sarah (Linda Cardellini), a gorgeous divorcée with two kids. Brad, who we learn is sterile due to accidental radiation exposure to his private parts during a dental visit gone horribly wrong, cherishes the opportunity to be a dad, and, after a rough start, it seems that his stepkids are finally warming up to him. His stepdaughter no longer scribbles pictures of him dead, but instead, places him at the far edge of a family drawing with a knife in his head and poop in his hair (Brad sees this as real progress). Even better, his stepson asks for his advice on how to handle a bully at school. Everything is going great -- but then Dusty Mayron (Mark Wahlberg), the kids' muscular and manipulative biological father, shows up and does his best to undermine Brad's authority and win back his ex-wife. The men then engage in an outrageous series of one-upmanship, from dueling bedtime stories to expensive gift-giving, in order to prove who the real king of the castle is. It's an appropriately silly setup for a family-friendly comedy, which is how the movie is being marketed.
Unfortunately, writer/director Sean Anders (Horrible Bosses 2) and co-screenwriters Brian Burns (Entourage) and John Morris (We're the Millers, Hot Tub Time Machine) apparently don't know what constitutes a family film. Parents should take the PG-13 rating very seriously: Crude, vulgar humor, along with an assortment of profanities (some uttered by children), are liberally scattered throughout the movie. Somehow the creators thought it was appropriate for a family film to include a scene in which a sleazy fertility doctor orders Brad and Dusty to drop their pants in order to compare their manliness, and for Brad's boss (Thomas Haden Church) to constantly regale him with his sexual misadventures. There's also a mangy dog that enjoys humping a stuffed Mrs. Santa Claus; a drunken outburst that leads to a special-needs child getting clocked by a wayward basketball; and a butt-naked Brad setting off a wave of unwanted laughter when he accidentally causes a window blind to collapse in a doctor's office, allowing nearby workers to peer in and chuckle at his small appendage.
Daddy's Home could have been a delightful PG-rated family flick that parents with small kids would likely have flocked to, but the filmmakers want it both ways as they try -- and fail -- to combine a comical family farce with coarse, adult-oriented humor. The result is a mixed bag of a movie that will turn off parents with young children, yet isn't raunchy enough to appeal to teens and the college crowd. The picture does boast some genuinely funny moments, such as Brad's ill-fated attempt to ride a motorcycle for the first time and his near-death by electrocution when he soars into a live wire while trying to show off his nifty skateboarding moves. However, anyone who has seen the film's trailer is already familiar with these two comic bits, which are the only laugh-out-loud scenes in the entire movie.
Daddy's Home also fails to utilize the milieu of New Orleans, which is where the movie was filmed. A brief glimpse of a Louisiana license plate and a quick shot of the New Orleans Pelicans' basketball court are the only indications that the story is set in the Big Easy; no one, from the leads to the supporting cast, sound like they are from anywhere remotely Southern, and there are no appearances by any recognizable NOLA locations.
Diehard Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg fans may enjoy this reteaming of The Other Guys stars, but even they are likely to be disappointed -- especially those in Ferrell's camp. The actor drags out his milquetoast shtick for what seems like the millionth time, and it quickly grows tiresome here. It's a mystery what the levelheaded Sarah sees in dim-witted Brad; even more perplexing is what the filmmakers were thinking when they cooked up this distasteful concoction and decided to serve it to families.