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Dad & Step-Dad movie review & film summary (2024)

The not-so-inconspicuous subtext of Dave’s optimistic outlook on life and Jim’s guilt over his initially hostile demeanor push DeLong’s debut over the fence of mere parody and into the realm of storytelling with characters exhibiting recognizable inner troubles. That is to say that “Dad & Step-Dad” is the rare movie that reveals itself more intellectually and emotionally rich than it purports to be on the surface, as opposed to the other way around, which happens quite frequently. The DIY manufacturing of “Dad & Step-Dad,” where the cast wears other crew hats, never calls negative attention to itself because the story has been conceived to exist not in spite of but within a set of specific limitations: a location that’s inherently visually dynamic and a group of actors with rapport built over a long time working together that allows them to construct compelling interactions from thin air.

There’s a wounded earnestness to Oberbeck’s performance that elevates it just a little higher than those of his counterparts. It also helps that the turmoil that afflicts his character—his relationship with the level-headed Suzie is on shaky ground—lends itself to more solemn acting. The dramatic register of Burgess feels just a tad closer to sketch comedy, which creates a dissonance necessary for the humor to work. Both Oberbeck and Burgess serve as co-writers and co-editors of the film, and while DeLong isn’t interested in filling us in on what came before or after this getaway, the evenly matched back and forth between the two convinces that there are lived-in layers to this bond. We are just witnessing the turning point in their frenemy arc. That Fiddyment plays Branson, also with utter sincerity, is a choice that feels not only practical, but thematically relevant as it points out that an immature personality can live inside a grown-up body—think man-child. We don’t simply become wise and leave behind our unflattering impulses when we grow older.

As with plenty of memorable comedies, what makes “Dad & Step-Dad” a special treat is that beneath its well-mannered raunchiness and stoic silliness there’s an undercurrent of something truthful about the human condition. It’s when rivalry morphs into a sincere bromance that DeLong, Burgess, Oberbeck allow the movie to grapple with men’s vulnerability without pulling the rug from under us. “What’s it all about, man?” Jim asks Dave after a shared moment of genuine connection. There’s no answer, but what DeLong tacitly gets at is that parents are simply kids that grew up and who don’t automatically gain an infallible manual on how to navigate the unforgiving waters of everyday existence.

That doesn’t change at the end of “Dad & Step-Dad,” but now these two average father figures don’t have to go through it alone. Wherever their unconventional family goes from here, looking after Branson is a great reason for them to hang out and fend off the darkness inside one stupidly inconsequential, yet amusing act one one-upmanship at a time. 

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