Brad (Will Ferrell) always dreamed of having the perfect family and is now determined to become the best step-dad to his new wife's (Linda Cardellini) children. But when their biological father Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) shows up unexpectedly, Brad's idyllic family life is turned upside down and he must go toe-to-toe with Dusty. Dad vs. Step Dad.
'Daddy's Home' aims to be a heartwarming film for the family-friendly crowd, and it's clearly designed to deliver uplifting moralizing for complicated modern family dynamics. This, of course, isn't bad in and of itself — the message is expectedly well-meaning and touching — but it leaves very little room for surprises. The predictable plot by John Morris ('Mr. Popper's Penguins,' 'Dumb and Dumber To') and Brian Burns ('Entourage') practically maps out the entire story right from the start as Will Ferrell's voiceover broadcasts his character's desire to have a family of his own and thinking he has found it with Sara (Linda Cardellini) and her two children, Megan (Scarlett Estevez) and Dylan (Owen Vaccaro). Cue the catalyst in the shape and über-manliness of Mark Wahlberg, who's toned body and bad-boy demeanor serve as a threat to Will's good-natured idealist Brad Whitaker. And as would be expected, the two men immediately clash, instigated and mostly prolonged by Wahlberg's Dusty Mayron, both in their parenting tactics as well as their display of manhood.
As was seen in the pair's last outing, the much funnier and smarter action spoof 'The Other Guys,' the two are complete polar opposites in almost every way, from how to run the household to giving advice when confronting a bully, which results in a rather awkward and only mildly amusing punchline in the last quarter of the movie. Ferrell does his usual shtick as the naïve, gullible and largely inept middle-aged doofus we've seen before, lacking confidence in pretty much everything he does yet appearing to be quite competent and relatively successful. (Only in the movies are such fantasies believable.) Wahlberg, on the other hand, is given a glamorous, vibrant slow-mo sequence during an escalator entrance at the airport, highlighting his rugged sex appeal and a bold self-assuredness that effortlessly radiates off him. Naturally, given the obvious direction of the plot, Wahlberg is only here for show, displaying his good looks and flexing his muscles every few minutes to create havoc in Ferrell's family-man delusions, though his performance is arguably the best thing about the production.
Ultimately, Dusty is all brawn and pretty-boy good looks, which it doesn't take long to figure out, but sadly, there are few brains shared between both men, as they quickly spiral into the movie's main focus of male one-upmanship, with each strutting to see who displays the biggest plumage. And the jokes range from the embarrassingly awkward and dumb physical gags, such as the motorcycle scene from the previews, to lighthearted chuckles, as when the two compete over who tucks the children into bed better. The gags make for several uncomfortable moments for the family and some decently funny wisecracks manage to break through, but not often enough. Notwithstanding, somewhat disconcerting is watching Cardellini only feign concern over everything transpiring around her. She's largely wasted as an impartial and nonpartisan observer as her husband suffers most the physical and emotional damage of doing the best he can as a stepparent. She could bring an end to the rivalry at any time, but instead, she becomes an enabler of the men's pissing contest.
On the surface, it may appear I'm completely hating on 'Daddy's Home,' but admittedly, the Sean Anders ('Hot Tub Time Machine,' 'Horrible Bosses 2') directed comedy is not without its charm, starting with the excellent comedic chemistry between Wahlberg and Ferrell. The actors play off each other with a natural sense of rhythm and timing, making their interactions feel genuine and as though off-the-cuff spontaneous. It's best demonstrated in the scene when the two give their own brand of fatherly advice for handling bullies to the young, timid Dylan and later when we see the result of who's guidance the impressionable boy decides to follow. The plot's overall theme of more than one parent in a family is also worth commending, in spite of its predictability and though audiences could've done without the soapbox preaching of it towards the end in another airport sequence. Nevertheless, it all comes to an end with the one sincerely funny and unexpected moment during the closing minutes when John Cena rides into the picture on his Harley.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Paramount Home Entertainment brings 'Daddy's Home' to Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with a flyer for an UltraViolet Digital Copy. The Region Free, BD50 disc is housed inside a blue eco-vortex case with a DVD-9 on the opposing panel and a glossy slipcover. At startup, viewers are taken straight to a static menu screen with music.
The Ferrell-Wahlberg comedy reunion manipulates and weasels its way into the Blu-ray family with an excellent 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode that should make a great family portrait or Christmas card.
The cinematography by Julio Macat is well represented here, showing a wide array of bright, sumptuous colors throughout. Primaries shine and glimmer with enthusiastic brilliance, providing the movie a lively, animated energy that's perfect for a comedy, while softer secondary hues furnish the picture with a heartwarming appeal. As would be expected of the genre, contrast is spot-on with outstanding balance between the brightest and darkest areas, allowing for superb clarity and visibility in the distance. The tiniest object and figurine along the walls inside the Whitaker household are intelligible and distinct. In several scenes, viewers can even make out the grain and patterns of the wood floors, and in others, the fine lines along the furniture, motorcycle and in exterior shots of the house are razor-sharp.
However, there are a couple moments that are a tad softer than others, but thankfully, they're not too bad or distracting and could be attributed to the cinematography, not a downside in the encode. On the plus side, black levels are very impressive, displaying striking differences in Dusty's weathered leather jacket and Brad's business suits. Poorly-lit interiors and darker sequences maintain superb shadow details and provide the 1.85:1 image with appreciable dimensionality.
Other than looking cool, dad comes home equipped with the latest and coolest in the sound department. The comedy flexes and shows off its audio muscles around the kiddies with a very satisfying DTS:X soundtrack, which defaults to the standard 7.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio for those not yet equipped for the new codec.
Granted, being a comedy, the sound design won't exactly wow listeners in the same way an action flick would when using this object-based format, but it nonetheless does a great job in breathing some life into the movie. Occasionally, atmospherics, such as trees rustling and birding chirping, occupy the surrounds with amusing effectiveness, but the most impressive moments are the few scenes with loud physical gags, such as when Brad attempts to show off his skateboarding skills or when he crashes Dusty's motorcycle through the house. Bits of random noise move into the overheads with great directionality and fluid panning, nicely expanding the soundfield.
Where the lossless audio really shines, however, is in the front soundstage, generating a spacious and expansive sense of presence that's terrifically engaging. The mid-range is clean and detailed, even during the loudest segments, while effects discretely and convincingly move across all three channels. The design makes the best use of the audio format by placing various sounds and noises in the front height channels, creating a very welcoming half-dome effect that at times pleasantly overwhelms viewers with the amount of off-screen activity. Amid the action, vocals remain superbly prioritized and distinct in the center while low bass provides gratifying depth and response in many sequences, but most impressive are the scenes with bass-heavy music.
Daddy's Home' aims to be a heartwarming film for the family-friendly crowd, and it's clearly designed to deliver uplifting moralizing for complicated modern family dynamics, but the predictable plot leaves very little room for surprises, delivering only a few sporadic fits of laughter here and there. The Blu-ray arrives with an excellent audio and video presentation, which fans will love. With a decently nice collection of supplements, the overall package is worth a look.