The problem with Daddy’s Home is one of pitch. It wants us to believe that Brad is a nice guy, and we believe it, because he is played by Will Ferrell in Family Man Mode. Sure, he might have the occasional overwrought meltdown, but he looks as fundamentally decent as his quality credit score implies. But that meltdown, prompted by his wife’s ex (Mark Wahlberg) ends up being so thorough that the film is more uncomfortable than it is prepared to be. It could work if the tone were to ramp up the boorish ridiculousness (as in Talladega Nights) or play more like a low-key dramedy (as in Everything Must Go). Instead, it is a middle-of-the-road breeze that ends in a dance battle. That conclusion itself is amusing, but it skirts over some major conflicts.
None of that really matters when considering the insane levels of product placement. Ferrell’s voiceover in an early scene includes praise for his Ford Flex, which is basically a verbatim recitation of the copy of a suburban car commercial. It is such a jarring pastiche that it initially plays as a devious goof. There appears to be some interest in satire about the reality behind cheery all-American ads. The film’s premise, as it traffics in the roles worn by adults, would lend itself well to that approach. But along the way, Daddy’s Home feels too beholden to a traditional narrative to really work as something stranger.
Jeff Malone is a voracious entertainment consumer and entertainment creator. He currently resides in New York City, where he received his Master’s in Media Studies at The New School. In addition to his pieces on TMRzoo.com and StarPulse.com, you can check out his blog (jmunney.wordpress.com), where he provides regular coverage of Community and Saturday Night Live, as well as other television, film, music, and the rest of pop culture.