Here's a challenge. Gather some friends, pour some drinks and announce to everyone the premise of Daddy's Home, the new family comedy about dads competing to be pater superior. It won't take long: Will Ferrell is a doting schlemiel of a stepdad to suburban moppets whose biological father, played by Mark Wahlberg, some kind of special-ops tough, rumbles back into their lives on a motorcycle as sleekly phallic as H.R. Giger's alien.
That established, why not spend a couple minutes guessing at what scenes are certain to be in the movie. Ferrell crashing that bike, of course. Comical compare-and-contrast shirtlessness, certainly. A funny dog? A daddy/daughter dance? A long-suffering wife and mother (Linda Cardellini) who, to facilitate the comedy, lets her ex move in to the house and then takes turns encouraging both of these men in their jackassery? Yes, yes and yes. Daddy's Home is composed almost entirely of setups you've seen from its predecessors. (Hey, that's working for Star Wars.)
The performers are all skilled enough to make something of this tired material. Cardellini, a champion eye-roller, smartens up every scene she's in, hinting at what the script doesn't dare: That rather than a prize these dopes are fighting over, Sarah is almost as touched as they are. As usual in family comedies, the leads learn lessons. Surprise: Brad needs some of Dusty's cocksure cool, and Dusty needs some of Brad's maturity and warmth. That moral is just as obvious and meaningless as anything in Daddy's Home, but I will say this: It's delivered in a rousing, ridiculous dance number, the kind of pleasurable stupidity that works even if you can see it coming. (