Brad Whitaker (Will Ferrell) is the perfect dad. Or rather, he would like to be the perfect dad. He's actually a stepdad, and looks after the two kids of his wife, Sara (Linda Cardellini) as if they were his own. Meanwhile, they treat him like a barely tolerable intruder, and the only thing he can take solace in is that they don't draw him being killed in their refrigerator pictures, merely injured seriously. Still, he will not be deterred, and is as kind as he can be to them, wishing for the day when he will be accepted, which makes up for the fact that after an accident at a dental surgery he was made sterile so cannot sire children, so when the daughter asks him if he would accompany her to the daddy/daughter dance at school, he can barely contain his emotion...
Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg had enjoyed great comedic chemistry before in the spoof cops thriller The Other Guys, so it was natural the studio would want to team them up once again, and Daddy's Home was the result. However, whereas the previous effort had been widely acclaimed as far better than anyone had expected it to be, this was greeted as if it were one of those Ice Cube family comedies that nobody really liked, and indeed had wondered what he was doing making them, which was the reaction the stars' fans had when they watched this. Not only had Ferrell's character been neutered by his domestic set-up, but the actor was looking decidedly tame into the bargain.
However, he had made tamer family comedies than this, and it was worth pointing out this was not made for the very young in spite of the two moppets who Brad was trying to impress being present in over half the scenes. Indeed, while it was a disappointment with regard to the excellence of their earlier collaboration, they did manage to work up a fair few laughs of decent variety in a plot that could be described as lazy, or the sort of thing that put paid to Steve Martin's movie career, but though it was too sugary for its own good it did deliver an edge with its premise. Which was, what happens when a genuinely nice guy meets someone who plans to sabotage his life for their own personal gain?
That someone played by Wahlberg as the actual father of the kids, who storms back into their lives when he senses his role as a paternal influence is being usurped by the human equivalent of a big, floppy sheepdog, only without the protective killer instinct. Wahlberg's Dusty was a blank-faced schemer who patently feels enormous jealousy that his children will be brought up by another man, and starts sowing seeds of dissent that undo Brad's desperate attempts to be loved. Many a true word spoken in jest, some observed, and the whole twenty-first century dynamic that a child may not be raised by both the parents who brought them into the world appeared to be setting out to make anyone who had been in that situation wince with recognition at the albeit exaggerated antics on display.
Much of that revolved around how macho Dusty was in comparison to the weepy, needy and eager to please Brad, and the script laid this on thick, so our hero has a job at a radio station specialising in smooth jazz, he takes part in every volunteering programme available to look after not only Sara's kids but everyone else's too, he is a complete doormat whose tenet that it's nice to be nice lands him at all sorts of social disadvantages, therefore when it comes time to man up and stick up for himself he makes an utter hash of it. None of this was especially challenging, and it didn't look to much of an effort to make either, though two elements soured what was a fair middle of the road flick with slightly edgy gags. One was the product placement, which did not merely pepper the background but was placed front and centre so often that you wondered if they were going to have commercial breaks as well, the other was Cardellini, a talented actress mired in sensible wet blanket mom mode who didn't get one joke to tell when she was perfectly capable of it, a cliché character this sort of comedy could do without. Those aside, eh, it was all right. Music by Michael Andrews.