Daddy's Home ★½

It’s no secret that trailers can be deceiving, sometimes making the movie that they are teasing seem to be better than it actually is and sometimes making it seem to be worse than it actually is. "Daddy’s Home" is a prime example of the former, at least for me. Judging by the fairly funny trailers, the film in question appears to be a pleasantly diverting comedy. Alas, it’s not. With mostly forced humor, only a few good laughs, and a repetitive story that doesn’t go anywhere interesting, "Daddy’s Home" can’t be considered worthwhile entertainment.

Brad Whitaker (Will Ferrell) is happily married to Sara (Linda Cardellini) and wants his stepchildren, Megan (Scarlett Estevez) and Dylan (Owen Vaccaro), to fully accept him and call him dad. He’s not making much progress in that regard, but he keeps at it and one day has a breakthrough with Dylan. Soon thereafter, the kids’ biological father, Dusty Mayron (Mark Wahlberg), shows up. The ensuing rivalry between the two men escalates and turns the family members’ lives upside down.

The movie opens with a brief discussion of the semantic difference between the words “father” and “dad”. Here, one can sense the potential for a film that could have been about something with some degree of seriousness. Unfortunately, co-writer/director Sean Anders and co-writers Brian Burns and John Morris have nothing to offer except a juvenile and insipid comedy that follows the formula of the genre, clichés and all.

Sara and her kids are the only really sympathetic characters in "Daddy’s Home", even though they are nowhere near being well-rounded characters. Whatever sympathy the viewer may have mustered up for Brad and/or Dusty evaporates when the movie derails with an almost offensive basketball-game sequence from which it never recuperates.

Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg seem to be right at home as mild-mannered (to put it lightly), heart-in-the-right-place Brad and fit military guy Dusty, respectively. The two actors have fine comedic rapport with each other, but Ferrell’s performance feels uncharacteristically restrained. This is the men’s film, so Linda Cardellini doesn’t have a whole lot to do; however, her Sara becomes the most sympathetic character in the movie by default. Thomas Haden Church plays Leo Holt, Brad’s boss, who isn’t funny at all, just annoying, with his out-of-place personal stories.

There's nothing special about "Daddy’s Home". The viewer will be hard-pressed to remember much of this comedy once the end credits have rolled. Trust me: there are plenty of better things on which to spend 96 minutes of one’s life.