Tuesday’s Review – Daddy’s Home (2015)

comedy, Mark Wahlberg, meh, review, Will Ferrell

mv5bmtq0ote1mtk4n15bml5banbnxkftztgwmdm5otk5nje40._v1_We’ve already established on this blog that I have an ever-growing love for Mark Wahlberg as an actor. He’s pretty consistently good these days but hasn’t had a film that really gave him the sort of real credibility he found in The Departed. He seems to have firmly situated himself into the realm of shitty buddy comedies. It makes it difficult to be a fan because, no matter how good he is, the films are ultimately too awful to make it seem worthwhile to watch. In fact, I think the most recent Mark Wahlberg film I’ve seen is probably Ted. I didn’t even see Ted 2 because I lost some faith in Seth MacFarlane after A Million Ways To Die. However, I’m always a sucker for a Will Ferrell film. I mean even a shit film starring him is probably going to have some laughs in it, right?

Daddy’s Home brings Wahlberg back together with his The Other Guys buddy, Will Ferrell, in a comedy about parenting. If comedy writers are stuck for ideas they can just throw their characters into a petty rivalry and have them outdo each other to an absurd degree. We’ve seen it about some fucking ridiculous concepts by now, including Christmas lights, wedding days, whatever the fuck they can think of. Now they’ve turned to fatherhood. Ferrell plays Brad, the dull but loving stepfather to his new wife’s two kids. It takes a lot of effort on Brad’s part but eventually his packed lunches and PTA attending routine gets his stepchildren on his side and they begin to accept him into their family. That is, until their biological father, Dusty, turns up. Dusty is, obviously, Brad’s antithesis. He’s cool, fun and incredibly intimidating. The kids adore having Dusty back in their lives and he delights in proving to Brad just how much he fits in with the family.

What follows is a by-the-books comedy that probably won’t thrill or really offend anyone. Daddy’s Home isn’t such a terrible film that you want to club yourself to death instead of watch it but it is an uninspired and clichéd comedy that’s following a tired and overdone formula. There’s is nothing unexpected or unusual about it. Nothing clever to make you think it was worth someone taking the time to put fingers to keys. However, there is something likeable about it. The two leads still have the good comedic chemistry that worked so well for them in The Other Guys. They work well together and manage to bring something to the formulaic one-upmanship. Just as before, Wahlberg plays the dick ex-husband remarkably well and Ferrell always manages to make the straight-laced dullard work for him. Neither character is well developed though. There are touches of something deeper that a better film-maker would have made more reference to but they just get swept under the rug. Any notion that Rusty is riddled with self-doubt and feels inadequate is quickly forgotten. The small sniff we have of a potentially exciting youth for Brad goes nowhere. This needed more development to really work better.

The problem is that there isn’t enough of a story to sustain a full-length film. The narrative is a short sketch stretched over a full 90 minutes or so. There just aren’t enough jokes to adequately fill the time. It doesn’t make much of an impact on any level but it’s difficult to completely hate it. Fact is, any film that ends with an amazing dance sequence is always going to end on something of a high note. Despite all of the obviousness of the narrative, there is something about the familiarity that allows you to get swept along for the ride. There’s something about Ferrell’s hopeless Brad that makes you root for him regardless. I just wish there’d been more to it all.

The Other Guys (2010)

buddy comedy, comedy, cops, Mark Wahlberg, Ray Stevenson, review, Steve Coogan, Will Ferrell

These days I find myself drawn to Mark Wahlberg films. I’m not entirely sure when it happened but Marky Mark became one of the more reliable actors around. So much so that I find myself desperate to watch Pain and Gain and 2 Guns every time I see the trailers. I may prefer the rap career of Hollywood favourite Will Smith but there can be no denying that Marky’s talent lies outside of hip-hop. He’s a talented actor and, most surprisingly, an incredibly funny performer. His role in Ted was a revelation so I started my mission to work my way through his filmography. If I’m not careful he’ll become one of my favourite actors and once that happens I will certainly have to start re-evaluating my life.

The Other Guys is another spoof of the classic buddy-cop film with Wahlberg and Will Ferrell taking their position as the title characters. Allen Gamble (Ferrell) and Terry Hoitz (Wahlberg ) are police officers who find themselves overlooked next to a pair of superstar detectives, played wonderfully by Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson. They find themselves paired up thanks to their past professional mistakes and are stuck filling out their co-worker’s paperwork. That is until they accidentally stumble into the middle of a huge financial scam, with Steve Coogan’s corrupt businessman at its centre.

As with every movie of this type, The Other Guys struggles to find a balance between comedy and the cinematic tropes of the genre at its foundation. Just how much adrenaline-pumping explosions and shoot-outs do you need in a comedy crime caper? Unfortunately, The Other Guys doesn’t quite get it right. McKay and cinematographer Oliver Wood (what happened to the Quidditch career?) push the action sequences as hard as they can and make sure everything is as in-your-face as possible. The focus should be the characters but there is always too much of a focus on the genre that everything just gets muddled and feels too big for the film-makers.

Writers Adam McKay and Chris Henchy stretch the already thin narrative just a little too far and they never quite manage to control it. There is too much confusion surrounding the flimsy stock market scam and subsequent armed robbery and kidnap that the main plotline just becomes a runaway train that blasts its way through some of the better moments. Thankfully The Other Guys has a saving grace in its central relationship and there are just enough stand-out moments throughout. These snippets occur when the bizarre characters get a chance to bounce off one another and distract us from the derivative plot.

For one thing, Ferrell and Wahlberg are a comedy super team here. Whilst Ferrell is still as funny as we have come to expect, it is refreshing to see him working the more straight-man role (albeit with a dark secret past hidden just below the surface). This also means he has some room to move within his performance. Rather than playing a character at 100% coarse, The Other Guys allows him to mix things up a little. He works well against Wahlberg’s brash and hot-headed Terry who is living with the frustration of being saddled with an inept partner and dull duties. He is full of anger and is the perfect foil to Ferrell’s reserved Allen. As with similar films, the humour is primarily based upon their conflicting way of life and their overall chemistry.

The pair is aided along their way by a wonderful and hilarious supporting cast. Michael Keaton is a comic highpoint here as the outrageous police captain who can be relied upon to provide a TLC quotation for every occasion. Likewise, Eva Mendes once again proves to be a funny performer and completely throws herself into some of the more ridiculous moments. However, it is the brief appearance of Jackson and Johnson in the opening scenes that really stood out for me. These moments are an outrageous but excellent parody of every over-the-top police action films. Whilst on screen for only a brief time, they are the stars of some of the funniest moments.

The most disappointing star is Steve Coogan, the man responsible for one of the all-time greatest comic characters, Alan Partridge. Suffering from being involved in such a forgettable and insignificant plot-line, Coogan just gets lost in the chaos. He has a few throw-away lines that might garner a titter but it just feels like he’s simply along for the ride.

A feeling that will only grow as the film progresses towards its finale. There are moments of true hilarity but this has the overall feel of one long sketch show broken up by a farcical crime plot. The funniest moments are the random tangents and the banter between our leading pair. The actual narrative is just consequential. Still, The Other Guys is a film that is primarily concerned with making its audience laugh and there is no denying that it does that. If only it had been less interested in the other side of the coin and veered off the Michael Bay path of film-making.

Ted (2012)

buddy comedy, CGI, comedy, Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, review

Seth MacFarlane is obviously best known for his hit TV comedies Family Guy and American Dad. Family Guy, in particular, is well known for its use of base humour and generally outrageous statements. It would have been foolish to think that MacFarlane’s first stab at cinema would be very different. Especially when you consider the fact that it is co written by two fellow Family Guy writers, Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild. Add to that many familiar names, including Mila Kunis, Patrick Warburton and Alex Borstein, we have the potential for another familiar MacFarlane set-up with a talking teddy bear in place of a dog/alien/bear.

What we end up with is something that stands out despite the many similarities. Surprisingly, this is mostly thanks to Mark Wahlberg’s humorous turn as Ted’s now adult owner. When I first heard of the casting of good old Marky Mark in a leading role in a comedy I was dubious but he excelled alongside his animated co-star and made for a likeable, if frustrating, character. Ted is no doubt going to get much criticism; it is not big and it is not clever. It is, however, funny and provides a pleasant change from the unoriginal comedies that Hollywood has been producing recently.

Of course, at its basic level Ted is one of these unoriginal comedies; what we really have here is a look at the limitations of the ‘bros before hoes’ philosophy. We have John Bennett constantly disappointing his long term girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis) and choosing to spend time with his childhood friend, Ted. Eventually Lori has enough and lays down the law; it’s her or Ted. This narrative has been used so many times in the past that if I listed them all here I’d end up with a fucking huge list of film titles. How then could MacFarlane make these themes work for him and stand out as much as his television work has come to? The answer was simple: CGI. Ted is not just John’s oldest friend; he is John’s childhood teddy bear.

The first few minutes of Ted could easily be mistaken for a children’s comedy, well if it weren’t for the fabulous and witty voiceover provided by everyone’s favourite Shakespearean Patrick Stewart. We see the younger John, unhappy and lonely, opening his Christmas present and finding a friend in his new bear. That night John makes a wish for his friend to come to life and, as we now know, nothing is more powerful than a young boy’s wish (“except an Apache helicopter — an Apache helicopter has machine guns and missiles, it’s an unbelievably impressive complement of weaponry, an absolute death machine.”). Ted is the film that asks what happens after the Disney happy ending. John grows up, physically at least, but, thanks to the constant connection with his childhood, fails to do so emotionally. He is still thick as thieves with his childhood toy who has grown into a crass, weed-smoking, Flash Gordon-watching slob.

At the same time, of course, Ted is absolutely hilarious when he is at his best. He is rude and controversial but is able to get away with it because he is what he is. Whilst Ted may not be the movie that fans of Family Guy had hoped for with MacFarlane’s film debut but it does share a great deal of DNA with the popular show. The script shares a great deal of the humour that made MacFarlane’s shows such a hit with the fans. The film does not care who it offends with its crass humour and lack of decorum and is littered with pop culture references for all ages to appreciate. Unfortunately, the three writers often get a little carried away with pushing the boundaries of good taste and the vulgar comedy often fails to hit the mark. The plot itself is often tiresome and the superior moments where we see Ted and John interacting are broken up by an unnecessary kidnap plot and chase scene. Although, even during its bleakest moments, there is always hope and, fortunately, something will happen or a celebrity cameo will delight you enough to bring you back in. It is certainly not a truly clever example of filmmaking but there are some great moments of humour that will keep audiences entertained.

A lot of those moments of humour can be attributed to the wonderful bromance that occurs between John and Ted. Wahlberg is on great form for the entire film and continues to prove himself as a worthy actor. MacFarlane is as quick-witted as ever and finds himself with more freedom than he would normally be allowed for his television work. He can say more of what he wants to say and swear as much as he fucking wants. A lot of people may complain about the amount of profanity that this cute bear comes out with but, thanks to his appearance, it doesn’t seem too much or tiresome. Even with his short stature, Ted stands out from the crowd thanks to his insulting and outlandish behaviour. He is not quite the loveable rogue and you’re bound to spend much of your time disliking him but, once again, Wahlberg gives us the emotional connection. He has remained loyal with his best friend and it is thanks to John’s continued love for his toy that the audience can accept Ted for who he has become.

I have read a review of Ted that compares it to the first two films of comedian Ricky Gervais, Ghost Town and The Invention of Lying. Both of these films were created out of Gervais’ increasing popularity, mainly thanks to his hit’s The Office and Extras. Almost egotistically, they were released under the belief that Gervais would not only create something wonderful and funny but that his reputation and odd sort of charm would be enough to make them a hit. Both of these films were abysmal and I feel the comparison with Ted is unfair to MacFarlane. Despite it flaws, Ted is undoubtedly a funny film. Yes, it is silly and relies on base humour but there are some truly fantastic pieces and gags. The homage to Taken where Ted and John fight in the hotel bathroom was a delight to watch and the animation was brilliant. It is the kind of film that film snobs will turn their noses up at but fans of true comedy will warm to the vulgar creature and his hapless owner.