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Film review: Daddy’s Home sees Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg vie for attention

Goofy comedian Ferrell and charming heartthrob Wahlberg play to their strengths in light-hearted comedy about a real dad putting a stepdad in the shade that makes for above-average holiday fare

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 January, 2016, 1:04pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 January, 2016, 1:09pm

It’s tough being a stepfather, especially when the biological dad happens to be the coolest – and hottest – guy in the world. That’s the single joke that underlies this cheerful comedy. Less crude than director Sean Anders’ Horrible Bosses 2 , Daddy’s Home is above-average holiday fare for older children and their parents.

Will Ferrell plays Brad, a stepdad who works hard to be the best father possible to two young kids. When his wife’s ex-partner Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) asks if he can visit to bond with his children, Brad agrees, as he’s read in his parenting books that kids should get to know their biological father.

Dusty turns out to be a muscled charmer who can do everything from build an army-grade adventure course to ride a motorcycle, and soon the kids are spending all their time with him. But can Dusty do the real dad stuff, like picking the kids up from school, as well as Brad?

Ferrell here is more Elf than Anchorman, and his nerdy nice guy is a sure-fire audience pleaser. He’s certainly uncool – he works at a smooth jazz radio station – but no idiot. Wahlberg’s rockstar-like Dusty is equally likeable, and the script gives plenty of room for both to win victories. The star pairing works unexpectedly well.

Aside from a bit of mild toilet humour, Daddy’s Home is a traditional Hollywood seasonal comedy in the mould of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and Planes, Trains & Automobiles. The fact that, in earlier times, both Chevy Chase and Steve Martin would have been a perfect fit for the role of Brad is somewhat comforting.

Daddy’s Home opens on January 7