Daddy’s Home is not your typical family comedy. For one thing it is a Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg film, but it’s not your typical Ferrell comedy either. Yes, we’ve seen Ferrell tackle roles as a race car driver, a self-absorbed anchorman, an unlikeable stepbrother and even a lost Christmas elf. We have even seen Ferrell team up with Wahlberg before to play a dimwitted cop in The Other Guys, but this time around Wahlberg and Ferrell aren’t partners. They are fathers, who go head-to-head for the love of their children.
Daddy’s Home director Sean Anders points out that he really wanted to try something different with this comedy. “Most of the time comedies about men are more like, if family’s involved at all, ‘Ah gotta leave the kids and the old ball and chain at home’ and…there’s always kind of that sense of men tryin’ to get away from their families in comedy often. So we just thought this was a good opportunity to make a comedy about two guys who actually wanna be with their kids. The whole goal of the movie is how much these guys love their kids,” he adds.
In this film, Ferrell plays Brad, a new stepfather hoping to bond with his kids. He explained how Brad is not a usual Hollywood stepparent:
“I think it’s the first time you get to tell the story of the stepdad and he’s not evil. This is a stepparent who’s really in earnest tryin’ to do the best job he can, and as Sean had mentioned, comes up against the feelings of insecurity when the real dad (Dusty played by Wahlberg) shows up in the picture and kinda reverses all the good work he’s done. The comedy in the film relies on the insecurity and the uncomfortable situations between the two men as they try to hash out their respective roles. This idea of the blended family, which is becoming more and more common [could]…be funny. We spend a good part of the movie acting so childish and then we finally decide to be adults and do the right thing. That’s a big message of the movie…So this was a nice segue for us [Mark and I] to have a second film together.”
Before reuniting for Daddy’s Home, Ferrell and Wahlberg worked together in 2010’s The Other Guys. Wahlberg mentions, “We just kinda picked up right where we left off. It was great [working together again].” He reminisces how Ferrell helped him tackle comedy for the first time in their previous film, “Having not done comedy before [then] working with Will, he always made me feel very comfortable and creates a very safe environment so you can risk looking ridiculous and know that you’ll still be protected. “
This time around Wahlberg tackled his character from an unusual place just like the rest of the film. “When I originally read it, I was like, Okay, I could just play this guy like a prick. Take the obvious choice. But then Sean was like, ‘Well, we want him to be much more interesting than that.’ And you want Dusty to also be likeable,” Wahlberg comments. “[Dusty and Brad] both really complement one another. They really learn a lot from each other. And then they’re finally able to become mature enough to put their own differences aside and do the right thing for the children.”
Seeking to step out of the typical comedy model, Ferrell turned to dramatic actress Linda Cardellini to play the mother caught in between two dads. He notes his great fortune when it comes to casting the not-so-obvious choice, “We’ve kind of plucked more dramatic actors, and thrown them in kind of comedic circumstances, and it’s worked great.” Cardellini loves her character Sara. She says, “I think what is great about my character is that here’s the woman in the story and she’s not the insecure one. She’s not the one riddled with anxiety. She’s got her head on straight [in the midst of these two crazies].”
Veering from the typical comedy formula and breaking the mold is one thing, but how to keep the film funny is the question that Ferrell and Anders tackle. A deadpan Ferrell explained the approach to humor in Daddy’s Home:
“I think Monday,Wednesday, Friday, 37% improv; Tuesdays and Thursdays, depending on what we had for lunch ranged anywhere from 70 to 80% improv. However, if it rained, then we’d just [stick with the]… script. No… between the scripted scene and then ideas [or improv] we had on the day, we always had a whole kind of slew of alt [alternative] lines that we throw out. So between all of those steps you kinda have a buncha different choices in the edit room to where you can dial a scene up or down. If you want something to play a little more straight, a little more emotional, then you can go to those lines [in the script]. Or if…it feels like this is…a little too stiff here, [then] we could use… a laugh here, we can add a joke. And so you can kinda calibrate scenes that way.”
As for what to expect from the film other than it being funny, Ferrell says it’s “a nice family comedy to be around [for] the holidays. So…Star Wars is scared s***less.”
Daddy’s Home is in theaters December 25, 2015.