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dir Sean Anders
scr Brian Burns, Sean Anders
prd Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, Chris Henchy, John Morris
with Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Linda Cardellini, Thomas Haden Church, Owen Vaccaro, Scarlett Estevez, Hannibal Buress, Jamie Denbo, LaMonica Garrett, Alessandra Ambrosio, Paul Scheer, John Cena
release US/UK 25.Dec.15
15/US Paramount 1h36
Bedtime stories: Ferrell and Wahlberg
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
There's a lot more to this film than meets the eye, although it's not particularly deep. Thankfully, the themes resonate strongly as the film explores parenting with a generous dose of big-hearted humour. There's a hint of an edge to the comedy, but while nodding in the general direction of gross-out humour, the filmmakers keep things warm and sweet.
Unable to have his own kids, Brad (Farrell) is giving his all to the stepkids (Vaccaro and Estevez) he's raising with his wife Sarah (Cardellini). Then just as the children are beginning to acknowledge him as their dad, their biological father Dusty (Wahlberg) arrives. And he's a super-cool tough guy who's virtually impossible to compete with, especially for a somewhat dorky "soft jazz" radio executive. As they compete for the youngsters' affection, Brad gets some rather unhelpful advise from his boss (Church), while Dusty drafts in the handyman (Buress) to give him a majority voice.
Director-cowriter Anders clearly wants to push the envelope without ruffling any feathers as he plays with the difference between being a dad and a father. So the movie exists in that odd space between a riotously rude comical romp and a gentle family comedy. There are moments of both along the way, including some razor-sharp gags that catch even the most cynical viewer aback. But there's also some rampant sentimentalising, which isn't helped by the painfully predictable plot.
Ferrell is remarkably assured as another goofy optimist, portrayed for about three-quarters of this movie as a dorky nice guy whom no one takes seriously. Thankfully, Farrell's unwavering performance becomes less annoying in the end, as we know it has to. Adept at comical timing, Wahlberg is playing the polar opposite, and he's enjoyably smug and sexy as he swaggers through his scenes. Cardellini offers a bit of counter-balance as the savvy woman caught between them. While Church and Buress provide random jokes when things stop feeling funny.
But then the entire movie doesn't feel very funny. It's enjoyable and often amusing, with people who are easy to identify with even if they never feel like fully developed characters. And the plot is so simplistic that it's obvious from the start that there will be no surprises along the way. And even if it never pushes its cast or the audience at all, it's diverting enough as pure escapism.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2015 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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