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Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg

Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg

“DADDY’S HOME”  My rating : B-

96 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13.

Going in, “Daddy’s Home” looks like another case of been-there-done-that.

A needy, good-guy stepdad (Will Ferrell) is threatened by the arrival of the kids’ natural father, a hunky rover (Mark Wahlberg) who will stop at nothing to reclaim his family.

Pretty familiar stuff. Except that “Daddy’s Home” is often screamingly funny. It even has a bit of heart.

Brad (Ferrell) has been married for six months to Sarah (Linda Cardellini).  Over that time he has struggled to gain the acceptance of her two young children.  Being sterile, Brad knows that this is as close to fatherhood as he’s going to get.

And just when the kids are warming to him, word arrives that their real Daddy, Dusty (Wahlberg), is returning to town.  Dusty wasn’t much of a husband and father, but now he wants to start over. And he doesn’t much appreciate Brad being in the way.

Neither Ferrell nor Wahlberg are going out on a limb here. They’ve each been cast in roles that play to their strengths — good-natured klutz and cycle-riding bad boy.

But here familiarity doesn’t breed contempt. Director Sean Anders (“Horrible Bosses II”) and co-writers Brian Burns and John Morris develop very amusing situations that give the cast members room to have fun, and many of the laughs take us by surprise.

Cardellini does a nice job of playing a woman who knows her original husband was bad news but can’t help being swayed by his machismo, and Thomas Haden Church is a scream as Brad’s boss, a much-married Lothario with an absurd real-life story to illuminate (usually inappropriately) any situation.

| Robert W. Butler

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