In a cagey stroke of counterprogamming, Paramount Pictures bucks the Christmas rush of intelligent award contenders with Daddy's Home, the dumbest movie out there that doesn't star chipmunks.
Instead, Daddy's Home stars Mark Wahlberg, who has grown dependably funny, and Will Ferrell, who used to be. The brainless-and-brawn chemistry they shared in 2010's The Other Guys is intact, carrying Sean Anders' movie through its break-even jokes and sitcom rhythms.
Ferrell plays Brad Taggart, nice guy and new stepfather with stepkids whose fridge doodles draw him dead with "homeless man poop" on his head. Brad's wife, Sarah (Linda Cardellini), urges him to be patient; they'll come around. The children's bad boy biological father comes around first.
He's Dusty Mayron (Wahlberg), bringing black ops sex appeal and instant parental competition for Brad. Daddy's Home traces their escalating war of impressing acts, from $20 bedtime bribes to a pony at premature Christmas. Anders wrings this flimsy premise for cheap laughs, some painful (Brad's motorcycle mishap), others painfully amusing (Brad's infertility issues).
What keeps Daddy's Home watchable is Wahlberg's checkmate machismo, as the intimidating foil necessary for Ferrell's namby-pambyism to register. It's like watching Andy Samberg's SNL impersonation of tough guy Mark Wahlberg, a self-parody of a spoof.
Toss in a few scenes stolen by Thomas Haden Church, Hannibal Buress and Bobby Cannavale, and moviegoers can do worse than Daddy's Home at theaters this Christmas. (Al-vinnnn!) But, lord, they can do so much better.
Contact Steve Persall at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.