Saturday, September 3, 2016

Daddy's not home

Well, I am right now, but I won't be for long.

Today is the start of my all-day pre-Father's Day movie marathon, and I can't do such a thing from home.

If a couple of the words in that last paragraph don't make sense in context, let me explain.

In Australia, Father's Day is not in June. It's in September. September 4th, to be exact. Well, this year, anyway. The first Sunday in September.

In many homes, Father's Day -- conceptually a day to let Dad do what he wants to do -- ends up being a day to celebrate Dad with the whole family. Which usually means some kind of special outing, which really requires no less of Dad than any other weekend outing -- and possibly more.

We may do a thing like that tomorrow when I get home. But today and the first part of tomorrow are all about me.

Ever since we started having kids, six years ago, my wife and I have been indulging in these little overnight getaways when we really need a break. "When we really need a break" usually aligns with some kind of Mother's or Father's Day or a birthday, since you feel too guilty to ask for the indulgence at other times. Not just because it costs money to go away, but because it leaves the other one with sole parenting duty for upwards of 24 hours.

But when it is one of those days, there's no guilt. You just do it.

Which is why I'm going to a hotel this afternoon -- check-in is at 2 -- and watching movies until my eyes bleed.

Realistically, it won't be more than five total -- four today, and hopefully one in the morning before check-out (though check-out is bright and early at 10 a.m.). But I'm bringing 16 movies with me -- some from the library, some from our own collection, some on iTunes -- so what gets watched will be left to my whims, how I'm feeling in that moment.

It's an exquisite sense of freedom, a hearkening back to when I had no responsibilities.

And then I'll be home by noon tomorrow to be properly feted by the family.

Kicking off this weekend on Friday night was a very thematically appropriate choice: Daddy's Home.

It would be an exaggeration to say that either my wife or I were looking forward to this one. We see everything Will Ferrell makes eventually, but we likely would have been happy to let "eventually" extend out several years before we prioritized Daddy's Home. Fortunately, iTunes prioritized it for us by making it the 99 cent rental this week. Which was actually just a coincidence, since we still use the American version of iTunes and it's not Father's Day in America.

I say "fortunately" because in the end we liked this movie. But it was a rough road getting there.

Simply put, this was the type of movie for which the term "uneven" was coined. It's one of the most uneven films I've ever seen.

It starts out amiably enough. Not particularly funnily, but amiably, and looking like it's going somewhere. Then there's a middle portion with not one, not two, but three outrageous set pieces involving Ferrell's character (the lame step dad) embarrassing or hurting himself in spectacular ways. None of these was funny, and in fact, they made us cringe. Perhaps even worse than the tone of these set pieces was the visual effects used to achieve them, which were just awful. I'm thinking of the scene where Ferrell accidentally drives a motorcycle through his house and the one where he accidentally skateboards off a half-pipe into an electrical wire. Just awful.

When we were about ready to write the movie off after the drunken scene at the NBA game, in which Ferrell hits a cheerleader and a boy in a wheelchair with errant throws, the movie did the most terrific about face I can remember in recent viewing history.

It starts with this great scene in Ferrell's office between Ferrell, Hannibal Buress and Thomas Haden Church which relies on the type of absurd "When you said that just now did you mean" humor that Ferrell does so well. It was one of the first real instances of that tone being pulled off correctly in the film. What follows is a really satisfying climax at a father-daughter dance that both is funny and has tons of heart, and an epilogue that calls back perfectly to some of the film's earlier jokes. Not since Night at the Museum do I remember a film that I hadn't been enjoying all that much finishing so strong.

And without giving anything away -- because you absolutely must have the twists and secrets of Daddy's Home withheld from you -- I'll say that there's a really funny bit at the end that ties in with Judd Apatow's Trainwreck ... I think unintentionally, since the movies were released only five months apart from each other. But if you really don't want to know what it is, why don't I just go ahead and give a SPOILER ALERT and you can stop reading, as this will be the last point I make in this post.

The epilogue features Mark Wahlberg's biological dad ending up with a new woman who also has an ex to whom he feels inferior, putting him on the Will Ferrell side of Ferrell's dynamic with him. That ex rides up on a motorcycle, and when he takes off his helmet we see it's Jon Cena.

Why does that matter? Because in Trainwreck, Cena's character, who is dating Amy Schumer's character, gets into a heated exchange in a movie theater with another patron. At one point the other patron calls him Mark Wahlberg, referencing his buff physique and general appearance, and Cena retorts "I look like Mark Wahlberg ate Mark Wahlberg."

Which is, like, exactly the same dynamic of comparative masculinity that is explored between the same two actors in Daddy's Home.

I'm not the first to notice that, I'm sure, but I'm definitely the first to write about it on this blog.

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