Daddy is Home
Or is he?

Sean Anders
Screenplay & Direction

Brian Burns

Movie Review
Daddy is Home:Or is he?

Daddy’s Home: Or is he?

 One More Writing Credit - John Morris (Screenplay)

A gentle comedy to start the new year rolling with, ‘Daddy’s Home’ is basically the story between a father and a step-dad.

Brad Whitaker (Will Ferrell) is a paunchy, mild-mannered executive with Panda radio. He loves children; unable to father any of his own or so he believes, owing to a hilarious dental experience which X-rayed the wrong part of his anatomy, he marries Sarah (Linda Cardellini) a divorced mother of two, a son, Dylan and a daughter, Megan.

But Brad hasn’t reckoned with Sarah’s ex Dusty (a supremely fit Mark Wahlberg) who, as soon as he learns that she has married, decides to pay his “family” a visit. Super-nice Brad arranges to go to the airport to pick up the ex. He zeroes in on this biker dude in a leather jacket and, with considerable trepidation, asks: “Are you Dusty?” “No,” says the man, and keeps walking. Brad heaves a sigh of relief however, with no Dusty showing up, he heads back home, only to find an unfamiliar motorcycle standing outside the garage and Sarah hissing at him, asking where he’s been. Lo and behold, he walks in to find the same biker dude - turns out this indeed, is Dusty! Brad finds himself cornered into inviting Dusty to stay a week! Dusty, in turn, loses no time in inviting African-American handyman Griff (Hannibal Buress) to move in and make himself at home too, which leads to a few weak racial gags between him and Brad. As if this were not sorrow enough, Brad takes Dusty to his office to show him around, where he instantly manages to bag the plum job of the ‘voice’ of Panda radio, something that gives him a fatter pay cheque than Brad. Leo (Thomad Haden Church) Brad’s boss, constantly cautions him to be careful of the ex, interspersing his advice with various anecdotes about him and his four ex wives. 

From then on, there’s a series of one-upmanship between the two men for the affections of the children. ‘Daddy’ clearly has a strong upper hand, while ‘Brad’ as the kids call him, comes a poor second each time he tries to best Dusty. The latter whips up breakfast one morning, which used to be Brad’s duty; what he dishes up look suspiciously like store-bought Cinnabons, but Brad is unable to prove this. Daddy brings home a street mutt whom the kids are ecstatic over, so Brad brings home a pony. From trying to ride Dusty’s motorcycle only to crash-land through the roof of his own house to get stuck mid-way through a wall, while the bike lands on top of the car, caving it in, to skate-boarding and almost getting electrocuted, to organising a lavish Christmas - in April! - with presents for the children dating back to all the years Dusty didn’t cough up any, Brad goes the whole hog. As Griff succinctly puts it: “This place is chaotic!” Brad also shells out 18,000 dollars (sacre bleu!) for a basketball game seats. Sarah was NOT pleased, I can tell you. Here too he is upstaged coz, whaddya know - Dusty, sitting all by himself in the humble stall, is recognised by the team coach, who is happy to oblige Dylan with getting a personal meeting with his favourite player, making Daddy the clear winner in this too. Brad then proceeds to drink himself silly in the stands. Sarah by now has had enough and both men are kicked out of the house. 

Dusty sees his chance and takes over Brad’s duties, including ferrying the kids to school. However, he is not the domesticated type and soon wants to split. Things come to a head during Megan’s ‘Daddy Dance Night’ where neither of her daddies are available. Big-hearted Brad convinces Dusty he should go and Dusty, in turn, insists that Brad accompany him and so both men show up. Things are now all sorted out peaceably; in the good news department, Brad apparently has enough mojo left over to get Sarah pregnant and we soon see her cuddling a little boy, named Griff after the handyman!

Come-uppance is waiting for Dusty though, who falls in love with and marries a woman who already has a daughter and is now in the position of stepdad himself. When his wife’s ex zooms up on a bike on visitation day, Dusty is discomfited to find that Roger (John Cena) is at least twice his size, with rippling muscles. “You must be Roger,” he says, in a bid to be friendly and, “Naah” goes the stranger, in a hark-back to Dusty’s own initial reaction to Brad.

The scene where Brad gets piss-drunk on the basketball field was shot during an actual New Orleans Pelicans versus Los Angeles Lakers game.

In the little screen time Church has, he is a delight. Cardellini is just there, nothing particularly noteworthy about her performance; she might like to take her looks in hand, though! As already mentioned, Wahlberg, apart from those washboard abs, brings his character true to life. He is lovably wicked but in a mischievous rather than malicious way, and effortlessly walks away with half the women in the audience sighing over him. This is not the first time he and Ferrell are working together (‘The Other Guys’) and the camaraderie is obvious. Ferrell is well suited as the bumbling, well-meaning, bursting-into-tears-at-the-drop-of-a-hat stepdad, although one cannot help but think of Robin Williams’ superior performance in ‘Mrs Doubtfire’ pitted against a formidable Pierce Brosnan in certain similar face-offs.

Music is by Michael Andrews and cinematography by Julio Macat - both competent, but not outstanding. Editing is by Eric Kissack and Brad Wilhite. One must give credit and state that continuity was maintained throughout, with the caved-in car roof. While the story is by Brian Burns, the screenplay of ‘Daddy’s Home’s is a collaboration between Burns, Sean Anders and John Morris. It has long been my view that too many writers tend to distort rather than enhance the plot, and so it is here. This kind of story outline could have raised more than a few good laughs and, in that expectation, ‘Daddy’s Home’ disappoints.

   Punam Mohandas

Punam Mohandas is a film buff, a journalist, an author, an accomplished travel writer and an expert on South Asia. She also writes columns on film personalities. She has lived and worked in India, Dubai and Bangkok.

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