Thursday, December 31, 2015

End of the Year: Critics are wrong about Daddy's Home

Daddy's Home from Paramount Pictures is now in theatres

2015 has been a good year for movies: Star Wars, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, The Intern, The Good Dinosaur, Spectre. Hollywood did a few things right, and I have been privileged to the results of their work.

Before the year ended, I felt the need to return to my long dormant blog with a few comments on Paramount Pictures’ Daddy’s Home, the family comedy now in theatres starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg. The film follows the attempts of Ferrell as a step-Dad who’s trying to win a place in his new kids’ heart, competing with their much hipper real Dad (Wahlberg). It definitely exceeded my expectations. Based on its trailer, I described the film as “pleasant enough to be watchable” in a piece for the LA Times HS Insider. After viewing the actual film, I must correct my statement: it’s one of the best family comedies I’ve seen.

That’s a bold statement, and certainly only older kids and up should watch the film, thanks to its crude humor. But it was an exemplary family comedy nonetheless. It was about family, which always has a touching aspect about it, and it was funny. Now you will have to watch it and judge for yourself if it succeeded in those two fundamental aspects.

I’m in disagreement with a lot of critics, but this isn’t the first time. The Rotten Tomatoes consensus says that, among other things that it “lacks enough guts or imagination to explore the satirical possibilities of its premise.”

First off, the movie is very funny. The characters are well-conceptualized in their variations, the scenarios over-the-top, and the witty commentary on parenting and the horrid ride of public education elegantly executed. Ferrell and Wahlberg definitely do a stellar job of playing off each other--you feel for Ferrell, but Wahlberg puts up a good fight. And the film has guts. While some of the scenes might make audience members a little uncomfortable, often enough that’s part of the film’s genius.

I’m not sure what Rotten Tomatoes means about it lacking imagination. I’m not sure they do either; this is a film that knows what it is: a comedy that understands that working to achieve the best in entertainment value is an end in itself.

Often what critics mean when they call a film simplistic is that it doesn’t address race, class, gender and the evils of prioritizing financial success as a family man. Indeed, Ferrell’s character isn’t rich, but the fact that he’s financially stable is viewed as a positive. Furthermore, the film pokes fun at the “race card” and, to make it even more politically incorrect, champions standing up for yourself—in the family-appropriate manner of dancing. Of course all of this only adds to the overall package of laughs—and the nice thing about it is that all the characters grow, overcoming some of the cynicism around them.

Daddy’s Home is witty and a lot of fun. If you haven’t yet seen it, make it a new year’s resolution to do so.