[Screen It]


(2015) (Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg) (PG-13)

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Comedy: Just when he thinks his young step-kids are finally accepting him as their new dad, their biological father returns home, intent on winning over them and their mother.
Brad Whitaker (WILL FERRELLL) is an amiable guy with a good job working for Leo (THOMAS HAYDEN CHURCH) at a smooth jazz radio station, while he's recently married Sara (LINDA CARDELLINI). Unable to have kids of his own, he's happy to be a stepfather to two young ones, Dylan (OWEN VACCARO) and Megan (SCARLETT ESTEVEZ), with hopes that they'll eventually call him their dad. When that gets close to fruition, a huge, muscle-bound and handsome obstacle arrives on their doorstep. And that's none other than Sara's ex-husband, Dusty Mayron (MARK WAHLBERG), a covert government type who's in town for a week. Sara isn't happy to see him -- due to Dusty abandoning them in the past -- but the kids are, and Brad figures he should be mature about this and go with the flow.

But it's not long before he sees Dusty as a threat to his status with the kids, especially when he builds them a nice tree house and skateboard ramp with the help of a handyman, Griff (HANNIBAL BURESS), who ends up moving in with them. As the days pass and Dusty keeps making inroad with the kids -- and toward Sara in Brad's eyes -- the mild-mannered stepfather pulls out all the stops in hopes of defeating his new competitor for being the dad of the family.

OUR TAKE: 5.5 out of 10
As any parent will tell you, raising one or more kids is one of the toughest jobs in the world, what with one or more lives depending on you, all while lack of sleep, constant worrying, and dealing with changes in temperament over the years can take its toll on many. But depending on when they enter the picture, being a step parent can conceivably be even harder.

That's because you're the outsider who's suddenly come in and may or may not have authority status beyond being an adult vs. the kid being a child. You also don't know the routines or have the parent-child bond from birth. Some kids might even view their stepfather or stepmother as the reason for the other parent getting the boot. And then there's the issue of when the biological parent has joint custody or simply when they show up and the kids call them "Mommy!" or "Daddy!"

The latter is the catalyst in "Daddy's Home," a formulaic comedy that might not be the most creative or smart film about eliciting yuks from such material, but generates enough laughs to earn a slight recommendation. Directed by Sean Anders from a screenplay he co-wrote with Brian Burns & John Morris, it stars Will Ferrell as Brad, a smooth jazz radio station man who's been married to Sara (Linda Cardellini) for less than a year. And he's stepdad to Dylan (Owen Vaccaro), an elementary school kid who's always getting bullied at school, and his younger sister, Megan (Scarlett Estevez), who's prone to drawing pictures of her family where Brad is dead via various means (in a funny way), but seems to be softening up in that regard.

Things seem to be going well until Sara's ex, Dusty Mayron (Mark Wahlberg, still ridiculously buff), shows up for a week. While he had no issue abandoning her and the kids in the past, once he sees that Brad has taken his place, he sets his sights on displacing him. Naturally, he does so in a benign and friendly fashion at first, with Brad -- despite Sara's warnings about her ex's manipulative nature -- thinking it won't hurt to have Dusty around for a few days since he is the kids' biological father.

Not surprisingly, that eventually escalates into a daddy arms race where each attempts to outdo the other in terms of winning over the kids. And few will be surprised by how the storyline plays out and Ferrell's mild-mannered character continually ups the ante to compete with Wahlberg's cool but sometimes menacing bravado and charm, only to have that ultimately backfire on him.

Some may be surprised, however, by just how funny the film ends up being, albeit in bits and spurts. Yes, it's lowbrow, sophomoric and slapstick stuff, but some of that material had me laughing louder than I have at any other comedy this year. And I wasn't alone as others around me were having the same reaction.

Even so, parents should know this isn't an innocent family comedy for everyone in the home to see. At times it pushes the PG-13 rating fairly hard, so anyone who's concerned about that should make sure to read our full content review thoroughly.

Certain to draw the ire of many a highbrow critic, "Daddy's Home" isn't anywhere close to being a perfect comedy that will go down in the annals of notable Hollywood offerings. But it has enough laughs, big and small, to earn a slight recommendation. It rates as a 5.5 out of 10.

Reviewed December 13, 2015 / Posted December 25, 2015

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