Tag Archives: Adam McKay

Interview: Screenwriter Brian Burns talks ‘Daddy’s Home’

Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell in 'Daddy's Home' (inset Brian Burns) Photos: Paramount Pictures

By Tim Lammers

Although the film’s a comedy, getting a chance to write about his experiences as a step-father for “Daddy’s Home” was in an odd sort of way cathartic for filmmaker Brian Burns. After all, it was a rare opportunity to confront through laughs the sort of position he and countless other stepfathers have been in, dealing with their wives’ exes when children are involved.

“It’s funny, it was not only therapeutic, it provided a good goal for me to set as I was writing it. I knew that once I had the idea of writing it, the best version of the story is the two dads figure out a way to come together in the end and work together. The feel-good family lesson of it would be, ‘Two dads are better than one.’ I put that out there in the universe as a goal for all of us in real life.”

Of course, Burns also knows that real life is a bit more complicated than that, and in “Daddy’s Home” we get to see the extremes to which Will Ferrell’s and Mark Wahlberg’s characters go to win the approval of young children in a blended family.

Fortunately, that wasn’t entirely the case in Burns’ experience as a stepdad.

“My stepkids’ father and I never went to the lengths Will and Mark go to in the picture, but we were complete, total opposites,” Burns said. “The idea came from that, and thanks to my incessant curiosity with my wife, I asked myself, ‘I do not understand how you were married to him and then married to me?’ We have nothing in common other than we are two humans.”

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Opening in theaters Christmas Day, Ferrell stars as Brad Whitaker, a successful radio executive who, despite good intentions, tries too hard to be a good father to his two young stepchildren. Thanks to the encouragement and support of his wife, Sara (Linda Cardellini), Brad seems to be making slow but sure progress, until Sara’s ex-husband, the children’s biological father, Dusty Mayron, shows up on their doorstep.

With his sparkling charisma and effortless ability to wow his kids, Dusty’s bad boy presence (and refusal to leave) kicks off a twisted rivalry between him and the man trying to raise the youngsters, and it appears that nothing is off-limits in their bids to win the kids’ approval.

Burns certainly is no stranger to the entertainment business, having served as a writer and executive producer on such smash TV hits as “Blue Bloods,” and writer and producer on HBO’s “Entourage.” And despite the comedy edge he brought to the table with the latter show, Burns admitted he felt a bit intimidated pitching the idea of “Daddy’s Home” to Ferrell and one of his production partners, Adam McKay.

“That was an incredible experience — the most fun and the most terrifying,” recalled Burns, the brother of filmmaker Edward Burns. “I went into a room and pitched Adam and Will, and tried to make these two comedy giants laugh. It was really terrifying, but they were  great. A few minutes into my pitch, and Will and Adam were up on their feet and improvising scenes. It was one of the greatest experiences of my career.”

Burns said his ultimate wish-fulfillment came, though, when Ferrell agreed to star in the film.

“On one of the first dates my wife and I went on, we went to see ‘Elf.’ I told her, ‘My dream is to one day write a Will Ferrell movie.’ But I was no place near to doing that at that point in my career as a young writer,” Burns said. “So, Will was always my first choice for this movie.”

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Movie reviews: ‘Concussion,’ ‘The Big Short,’ ‘Daddy’s Home’

Alec Baldwin and Will Smith in 'Concussion' (photo - Sony Pictures)

By Tim Lammers

“Concussion” (PG-13) 3 1/2 stars (out of four)

Will Smith’s career is back in focus with “Concussion,” the compelling true story of revered pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu (Smith) and his earth-shattering discovery that connected severe brain damage – diagnosed and termed as chronic traumatic enchepolapthy (CTE) – to repeated concussions in NFL players. Based in Pittsburgh, Omalu first made the correlation after the untimely death of Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame center Mike Webster (a barely recognizable David Morse), and the subsequent deaths of other NFL players.

Not surprisingly, NFL officials don’t want to confront the issue, and do their best to discredit Omalu and his colleagues to protect its vast business interests. The supporting cast is stellar, including strong performances by Albert Brooks as famed pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht and Alec Baldwin as former Steelers team physician Dr. Julian Bailes – who helped Omalu convince the NFL of the problem. Save a horribly miscast Luke Wilson as current NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, “Concussion” is a riveting, must-see movie whether you’re a fan of the NFL or not.

“The Big Short” (R) 3 1/2 stars (out of four)

Director Adam McKay impressively steps away from his normal world of Will Ferrell comedy fare and channels the filmmaking expertise of Martin Scorsese in the process with “The Big Short” – a searing portrait of four groups of Wall Street outsiders who envisioned the burst of the housing bubble in 2008 and tried to stick it to the big banks in the process.

In their turns as the outsiders, Christian Bale, Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling are at their best, and Steve Carell continues to impress in yet another stunning dramatic turn on the heels of his Oscar-nominated role in “Foxcatcher” last year. Moving at breakneck pace throughout, “The Big Short” contains lots of complex Wall Street jargon, but Mc

Kay creatively works in star cameos to break things down in layman’s terms. The film, while entertaining in the way it is presented, is infuriating at the same time.

“Daddy’s Home” (PG-13) 3 stars out of four

Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg reteam after the hilarious romp “The Other Guys” with “Daddy’s Home,” a wonderfully sweet comedy about a doting yet hapless step-father (Ferrell) who must deal with the return of the children’s far cooler biological dad (Wahlberg). We’ve seen both actors play these sorts of roles before, but familiarity aside, there’s no question the pairing works wonders here as the two dads engage in a nasty game of one-upsmanship to win the affection of the kids and their mother. “Daddy’s Home” is far from perfect, but it’s an enjoyable movie nonetheless.