Year 8, Day 314 - 11/9/16 - Movie #2,484
BEFORE: Will Ferrell carries over from "Get Hard", and this kicks off a three-film Mark Wahlberg chain. It's amazing how simple that all seems in retrospect, but I just couldn't see these connections a couple of weeks ago, I had to sit down with my phone and scan through the IMDB looking for possible paths that would get me to the end of the year in an acceptable way, according to my own rules.
THE PLOT: Brad Whitaker is a radio host trying to get his stepchildren to love him and call him Dad, but his plans turn upside-down when their biological father, Dusty Mayron, returns.
AFTER: Essentially, it's the same formula as "Get Hard" - cast Will Ferrell (really, always a good idea - well, almost always) as something, then cast someone to play his polar opposite. In this case, Ferrell is the nerdy, insecure, less manly stepdad, playing against the super-cool, super-confident, super-macho biological father, and they put themselves in a competition for the hearts and minds of their two co-children.
I don't know exactly how common a situation this is, I'm basically a conscientious objector in the parenting department. Whether this type of struggle goes on across America, or this is an exaggerated fictionalized version of an imagined typical family dispute, I have no idea. All I can do is analyze the tale that Hollywood puts in front of me, and judge it by how entertaining it turns out to be.
At the same time, it's something of an over-simplification - right away, the conflict is determined to be THIS guy or THAT guy, as if the kids could only love one or the other, which is ridiculous at its core. We probably all know someone who's got a parent and a step-parent, and logically it should be possible for them to care about them both, whether equally or not, but that doesn't seem to be even suggested as an option here. Right away, the macho he-man B.S. comes into the picture, and both men end up in caveman lizard-brain mode, where it's "either me or him".
Great for comedy, but not great for logic, and not representative of the way most people probably think. Look at the big picture, do you only have one job throughout your life? One house, one car? The only thing that's constant in our lives is change, and that's true of relationships, too. Thousands of kids in our country eventually find room in their hearts for a new parent, why do these bozos automatically assume that the kids couldn't possibly love them AND another dad, too?
It starts with simple things, like telling bedtime stories, but before long each man is trying to outdo and outspend the other, starting with pets and escalating up to extravagant treehouses and a skateboard half-pipe in the backyard. Then there's the competition over handling tough childhood issues - like, which father is better at advising their son over how to deal with bullying. The psychological warfare eventually extends to the bedroom, where the new stepdad seems incapable at first of giving the wife another child, the biological father's track record on this is already proven. However, there's an unexpected twist late in the film, which I thought was handled pretty cleverly.
But apart from this point, the remainder of the resolution, the ultimate reasoning for these two men calling a truce, felt both forced and rushed. I guess we always knew that they would make peace for the sake of the children, but the turn-around just takes place too quickly. And the biological parent's inability to deal with the day-to-day things, like making lunches and school drop-offs, is much too convenient.
NITPICK POINT: What fertility clinic, anywhere in the world, would put a man who's there to leave a "sample" in a room where he could possibly be seen by others? Sure, it's a visual joke for comic effect, but no one would responsibly set aside a room for this purpose where only a few, insufficient venetian blinds were standing between someone and social embarrassment of this nature. Anyone in the medical profession would be smart enough to designate a private, locked room for this, so the joke just didn't work.
Also starring Mark Wahlberg (last seen in "2 Guns"), Linda Cardellini (last seen in "Avengers: Age of Ultron"), Thomas Haden Church (last seen in "Tombstone"), Hannibal Burress (last heard in "Nerdland"), Bobby Cannavale (last seen in "Ant-Man"), Scarlett Estevez, Owen Vaccaro, Bill Burr (last seen in "The Heat"), Jamie Denbo (last seen in "Ghostbusters"), with cameos from John Cena (last seen in "Sisters"), Kobe Bryant, Paul Scheer.
RATING: 5 out of 10 traffic cones