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‘Daddy’s Home’ trying too hard; ‘Brooklyn’ a surprise hit

Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg and Linda Cardellini in “Daddy’s Home.”
Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg and Linda Cardellini in “Daddy’s Home.”

Daddy’s Home **1/2

As a longtime Will Ferrell fan I expected at least a few laughs and a general sense of amusement in his newest comedy Daddy’s Home; and I was not disappointed…much. Not nearly as clever as earlier Ferrell films such as Old School, Anchorman and Elf, or with the same heart, producer Adam McKay (Anchorman, Talladega Nights, Funny or Die) and director Sean Adams did seem to try. The on-screen chemistry between Ferrell and wannabee funny man Mark Wahlberg as competing dads (Ferrell is the new stepfather and Wahlberg the bad boy bio-dad) did lend itself to some funny moments. Where the producers and director failed was in perhaps trying too hard, with too many gags. Another fail is the awkward melding of very adult themes (extended fertility clinic semen jokes) juxtaposed to the precocious children co-stars, putting the film somewhere between a family comedy and more adult R-rated Ferrell/Wahlberg nastiness. Despite its PG-13 rating it succeeds as being neither a family film nor an adult comedy. The huge box office numbers ($200 million against a $50 million budget) prove that both stars have drawing power and that the formula works, as tired and awkward as it often is.

Brooklyn****

A surprise hit, Brooklyn is a period romantic drama as seen through the eyes of a young Irish immigrant Ellis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) as she navigates away from the life she left behind in small town Ireland and tries to settle in America, 1950s New York, more specifically Brooklyn. Adapted from the book of the same name written by Nick Hornsby (About a Boy) the film co-stars Emory Cohen as Tony Fiorello, the sweet Italian kid who falls madly for this Irish girl, even while Ellis has a few reservations. She moves slowly into her relationship with Tony as the film moves back and forth between Brooklyn and Ireland, where she’s conflicted in her feelings for Jim, an equally charming Irish lad played by Domhall Gleeson. One of my favorite new actors, Gleeson has played in two Harry Potter films as Bill Weasley, along with the lead in the sci-fi thriller Ex Machina, Tim in About Time, and as General Hux in the newest Star Wars release. Where the drama really succeeds is in the little ensemble groupings and dialog between the girls at a Brooklyn boarding house, Tony’s outspoken and eccentric Italian family, the hardened characters in Ireland and the struggle Ellis feels between her longing for home and the possibilities of a new life in the New World. The film has already tripled its modest $10 million budget, giving hope to movie-goers everywhere that there’s still some room for romance on the big screen.

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