Adam McKay and Will Ferrell are two of the strongest comedy talents in cinema, but the duo split up this winter to pursue different goals. For Ferrell it was reteaming with his The Other Guys co-star Mark Wahlberg for the comedy Daddy’s Home, and for McKay it was pursuing Oscar glory with the adaptation of The Big Short. Both had successes, though working separately revealed some of the limitations of either.
Daddy’s Home is the sort of formula comedy that is painfully familiar to watch for anyone who’s seen more than a handful of films. Ferrell plays Brad Whitaker, a man who thinks he’s sterile, but has been happy to be stepdad to two kids with his wife Sara (Linda Cardellini). Trouble looms when the real father, Dusty Mayron (Wahlberg) re-enters the picture, and his bad boy masculinity and perfect luck make him a challenger to the throne. With Ferrell a terrible alpha male, it makes for a lot of embarrassing situations as the two fight over the love of their children and Sara.
If you’ve seen enough movies, you know how this is going to go down. Ferrell has to embarrass himself until he finds redemption, Wahlberg has to look super cool until he fails, and supporting actors like Thomas Hayden Church and Hannibal Buress get to show up and kill for ten minutes to pad this out to a reasonable running time. This is a premise that is at once somewhat believable (in that there’s often alpha competitions) and yet is totally unbelievable in how everything goes down. That larger than life aspect allows for the possibility of big laughs, but everything is handled at a sitcom level. When writer/director Sean Anders started his big screen career with Sex Drive it seemed like he could take high concept set ups and deliver relatable comedy in them, but of late, he’s just been doing dumb for dumb’s sake. With Daddy’s Home he finally hit a home run as the film made $150 million domestic, so hopefully he’ll use his success to do something more interesting.
The Blu-ray is loaded with extras. The film comes with a DVD and digital copy and the film is presented in widescreen (1.78:1) and in DTS:X. For a comedy, that’s impressive, though it’s hard to say it makes great use of the speaker layout. As a recent film it looks and sounds great at home.
The film comes with a making of (12 min.), which gets everyone involved to say good things about the film, while “Dad Off” (7 min.) continues the talk about the making of the film as does “Daddy Daughter Dance” (5 min.) and “Halftime Stunt” (9 min.). “Tony Hawk: Skater Double” (4 min.) gives Tony Hawk credit for his work on the film, while “Child’s Play” (5 min.) highlights the film’s child actors, and “Hannibal Buress: Perfect Houseguest” (6 min.) gives the film’s best comic ringer the spotlight. “Blooper – Jeet Kune Do” (2 min.) shows Wahlberg losing it during a take, while the disc closes out with five deleted scenes (8 min.) that offer a nice sequence for Buress, but are otherwise negligible.
The Big Short
The Big Short attempts to do something very hard: Tell the story of the fiscal meltdown of 2008 as a caper comedy. First noticed by Michael Burry (Christian Bale), the housing bubble was due to collapse as housing investments were getting ridiculous with garbage financing allowing anyone to pick up mortgages. This tip is picked up by a number of brokers, including the slimy Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) – who feeds it on to Mark Buam (Steve Carell) and his team – and up and comers Charlie Gellar (John Magaro) and Jamie Shipley (Finn Wittrock), who team with Ben Rickertt (Brad Pitt) to bet against the housing market, and the United States. As history proves, they were in the right, but to show what happened, and the why it looks at the housing bubble, specifically in Miami and Vegas, and shows how a bunch of idiots were allowed to get rich and sell bad loans through a lack of oversight and no sense of the future.
To convey this information, McKay allows for voice over and celebrity guests to explain it all. This is the sort of discursive approach that Martin Scorsese used in The Wolf of Wall Street (which treads similar terrain), but Scorsese is a master of form, and McKay is not there yet. Which means that the film has a sort of stop/start flow to it. You can see the filmmaking at work, and that makes for a less fun time as the film feels like its feeding the audience its vegetables. The film still works (which may explain why it won the Oscar for best adapted screenplay, and packs a mighty fury to it, but it also feels more like an angry but funny essay than a film.
Paramount’s Blu-ray presents the film in widescreen (2.35:1) and in DTS: X along with a DVD and digital copy. There is quite a bit more surround work here than you might expect for a comedy, so it’s a solid disc that’s maybe not quite demo-ready.
Extras are solid. There’s a making of that’s broken into five chapters. “In the Tranches: Casting” (16 min.) spotlights the cast, “The Big Leap: Adam McKay” (12 min.) focuses on the director, “Unlikely Heroes: The Characters of The Big Short” (11 min.) plays up the ensemble and story, The House of Cards: The Rise of the Fall” (14 min.) focuses on the true story while “Getting Real: Recreating an Era” (11 min.) puts a spotlight on the behind the scenes craft. None of this is all the in depth, it’s more everyone is proud of the work they’ve done, and can’t believe so many talented people agreed to do it. There are also five deleted scenes (6 min.) that don’t add much and were wisely cut.