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Movie review: ‘Daddy’s Home’ a one-joke premise

Will Ferrell plays the role of a stepfather competing with a birth father for affection in the film “Daddy’s Home.”
Will Ferrell plays the role of a stepfather competing with a birth father for affection in the film “Daddy’s Home.” Paramount Pictures

Will Ferrell, the master of self-humiliation, strikes again in “Daddy’s Home.”

As Brad, the super nice, ultradorky stepdad of two cloyingly cute and gratingly annoying young siblings (Scarlett Estevez, Owen Vaccaro), he finds himself competing for the tykes’ affections with their irresponsible but undeniably charismatic birth father Dusty, played by Mark Wahlberg in ultrahunk mode. (Insert shirtless beefcake scenes here. And here.}

Let the degradation begin.

It actually begins before the men meet, when Brad is seemingly radioactively neutered in a dental office mishap (X-ray machines; who knows where they may wind up pointing). No natural fatherhood for you, big guy.

It only gets worse from there.

From a property-destroying episode on a runaway monster motorcycle to a drunken half-court meltdown at a Los Angeles Lakers game, Brad’s ignominy is never-ending. He’s even embarrassed quite literally to death when a skateboard stunt goes catastrophically awry. In that instance, as well as all others, capable and cool Dusty steps up to save the day and resuscitate this fool. His kids are enthralled. His ex, Sara (Linda Cardellini), now more-or-less happily married to Brad, is appalled, and rethinking that “happily” aspect of her remarriage.

Ferrell, as always, throws himself full-force into his character’s messes and distresses. His mostly whiny, sometimes shrieky manner of bouncing off the calm and sneakily ingratiating Wahlberg gives the picture its fizz and generates a fair number of laughs. They established this chemistry of contrasts in their last pairing, 2010’s “The Other Guys,” and they essentially follow the same pattern here.

Issues of commitment and responsibility (Dusty is deficient in both areas) are raised by co-writer/director Sean Anders to give the picture a smidgen of substance, but really “Daddy’s Home” is a movie with a one-joke premise: Will Ferrell, the pincushion of punishment. Make him screech. Watch him squirm.

Daddy’s Home

  1/2 out of 5

Cast: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Linda Cardellini, Hannibal Buress, Thomas Haden Church.

Director: Sean Anders.

Running time: 1:36 hour.

Rated: PG-13, for thematic elements, crude and suggestive content, and for language.

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