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Daddy’s Home • Alvin & The

Chipmunks: The Road Chip

December 17, 2015

Daddy’s Home (***) PG-13

I’m not a Will Ferrell fan. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say, I’m not a fan of Will Ferrell’s output as an actor. There I’ve said it. It’s out there and it can’t be taken back. Of course, this isn’t going to come as a surprise to anyone who’s followed my reviews over the course of the last five years as practically every film featuring the former SNL alum in a starring role has received a negative word from yours truly.

To be clear, it’s not that Ferrell doesn’t have a modicum of talent. He’s fine when placed into the hands of a competent filmmaker/screenwriter, as evidenced by his terrific turn in the 2006 film, Stranger Than Fiction.  He was a revelation in that film, revealing layers of depth that I didn’t know he was capable of and rarely hitting those kind of career highs since.

Instead, Ferrell too often allows himself to be guided by his filmmaking partner in crime, Adam McKay, and the results are usually a mixed bag at best. At worst, as seen in the Anchorman films, Ferrell allows himself to coast every ten minutes or so on the good will engendered by one good joke.

Will Farrell in Daddy’s Home

A good joke that is typically sandwiched in between multiple gags that are best classified as misfires.

That’s why it was such a surprise to see Ferrell coming across as effectively as he does in his latest comedic offering, Daddy’s Home. Of course it helps that the film contains the stunt premise of having him paired onscreen with Mark Wahlberg as a stepdad (Ferrell) vying for the affection of his stepchildren while also engaging in a battle of wills with the stepkids’ biological father (Wahlberg).

What’s surprising is how much of the film works. Perhaps my expectations were on the extreme low end of things but I couldn’t help but notice how much I actually laughed during the film. There are some genuinely funny moments here and the sentimental stuff isn’t as hard to take as one might expect in a film like this either, something that certainly helps matters immeasurably. 

As one might determine, the plot deals, albeit humorously, with the problems inherent in entering into a ready-made family. Wahlberg and Ferrell seem to have a nice chemistry going on and there’s ample slapstick doings that really hit the mark from to time.

It’s nice to see Ferrell play a character that seems to have genuine concern for someone other than himself. If this is a sign of a new direction for Ferrell as an actor then I’m curious to see what happens next.

Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Road Chip (** ½) PG

If memory serves, and bear in mind that it’s been three years, in my review of the last cinematic Chipmunks opus, I recall making a call for a fashionable demise of the infernal rodents of the film’s title. The setting of that film was on a cruise ship—the film’s subtitle, after all, was Chipwrecked—and there’s a scene where those Chipmunks are stuck on a dance floor in said sea vessel. I lamented the fact that the filmmakers didn’t throw in a scene wherein Alvin, Simon or Theodore weren’t stomped on during this scene. This would have been an event that would have given adults, like myself, attempting to please their offspring by attending the film, a respite from the trite events onscreen.

The filmmaking team behind the latest Chipmunks outing must have heard my pleas at some point because there’s more than one scene in this latest movie where Alvin and company are put in physical danger in a non-pc fashion.  Perhaps that’s why I actually found myself laughing aloud on more than one occasion during what I assumed would be the worst moviegoing experience of the 2015 movie calendar.

Truth be told, it’s really saying something that I actually enjoyed this latest Chipmunks more than a number of films I’ve seen this year.

Scene from The Road Chip

In fact, there’s actually one critical darling I’ve reviewed in the pages of FOCUS, a film that will go unnamed here, which is likely to get an Oscar nod and would place below The Road Chip in terms of that film’s merits.

Now don’t get the wrong idea. The Road Chip isn’t going to earn a place on any year’s best list but you have to give credit to any mainstream ‘family’ film that gives a cameo to cult filmmaker John Waters and references his trash classic, Pink Flamingos. If only those in the audience I was with knew what that aforementioned  film was really all about I seriously doubt they would have been laughing as hard as they were.

In the previous Chipmunks films, comedian David Cross served as the villain. He’s noticeably MIA here but has been replaced by Tony Hale as Scruggs, an ATF agent trailing the rascally rodents after they create an incident on an airplane.

The plot concerns Alvin and his pals attempting to thwart what they believe to be the impending nuptials of their manager, David Seville (Jason Lee).  Slapstick shenanigans ensue and the ratio of gags that work is actually higher here than in just about any of the other films. This is about as inspired as it gets for a Chipmunks film, and  I guess that’s about the most that one might hope to find if forced to endure yet another Alvin and the Chipmunks film.

Both of these movies are playing at the Carmike in Hickory, and other area theaters.

Questions or comments? Write Adam at filmfan1970@hotmail.com.

 

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