Daddy’s Home (12A, 96 mins) Comedy/Romance/Action. Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Linda Cardellini, Hannibal Buress, Thomas Haden Church, Owen Vaccaro, Scarlett Estevez. Director: Sean Anders.
Grown men degenerate into petty, vindictive and jealous children in Sean Anders’ comedy of bad parenting and clashing egos.
The perfect storm of Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg’s first on-screen pairing - the goofy 2010 cop caper The Other Guys - has blown over, leaving behind the overcast skies of a mean-spirited game of testosterone-fuelled one-upmanship that is surprisingly light on belly laughs and charm.
A misfiring script stacks the odds heavily in favour of one of the actors, lavishing misery on his rival to the point that any initial pangs of sympathy are supplanted by incredulity and ultimately disdain.
By the time the three writers are ready to engineer the obligatory reversal of fortune, it’s too little, too late.
A colourful supporting performance from American stand-up Hannibal Buress as a handyman, who inexplicably takes up residence on the family sofa and referees arguments between the two men, is a pleasing diversion.
Ferrell plays to type as mild-mannered nice guy Brad Taggart, who works at a smooth jazz radio station called The Panda under a politically incorrect boss (Thomas Haden Church).
Life is great for Brad: he is married to sex bomb Sarah (Linda Cardellini) and has two beautiful step-children Dylan (Owen Vaccaro) and Megan (Scarlett Estevez) from her first marriage.
Out of the blue, Sarah’s first husband Dusty Mayron (Wahlberg) makes contact and persuades Brad to let him visit the children.
She urges extreme caution, describing her ex as what might happen if “Jesse James and Mick Jagger had a baby”, but Brad is unperturbed, believing that it’s important for Dylan and Megan to have their biological father in their life, even if he is a scoundrel.
“You can find the good in just about anything. I love that about you,” coos Sarah.
Brad’s benevolence and patience are tested to breaking point as Dusty swaggers into town, intent on breaking up the happy home and reclaiming his position as alpha male.
Daddy’s Home is a morass of half-baked ideas and sketches, which fail to gel as a satisfying battle of the hirsute sexes.
Only when the rivalry between the central characters descends into a literal showdown of their respective manhoods - off-camera thankfully - does the film turn promise into genuine giggles.
Ferrell goofs ad nauseum while his deadpan co-star repeatedly removes his shirt to poke fun at his musclebound screen image.
Cardellini transfers her mom’s fickle affections as and when the script decrees, and is almost superfluous to scenes of fraternal bonding drizzled in sickly sentiment that masquerade unconvincingly as a resolution to the madness.
Who’s the daddy?
Certainly not Anders’ uneven picture.