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Daddy Day Care
2003 - PG - 93 Mins.
Director: Steve Carr
Producer: Matt Berenson, John Davis, Wyck Godfrey
Written By: Geoff Rodkey
Starring: Eddie Murphy, Jeff Garlin, Kevin Nealon, Steve Zahn, Regina King
Review by: John Ulmer
"Daddy Day Care" is a tired exercise in comedy, the type of film that only comes around so that filmmakers can cash in and dupe us, as an audience, into thinking it is something like "Mrs. Doubtfire" or "Mr. Mom," much funnier, clever and original comedies that not only use the genre but are part of it. "Daddy Day Care" is in the genre of comedy, but there is a difference between a film's genre, or classification, and what it and its final effect really are.

I must say I was impressed that the film didn't resort to much foul language, I know that must have been hard to bear for Eddie Murphy, who was the King of Rude during the eighties, and in fact even made a film called "Raw." I respect "Daddy Day Care" for that, but not much else.

In this case, the one-laugh-wonder is about a Job-Driven Workaholic, Charlie Hinton, and his best-buddy Phil (Jeff Garlin). They are advertising executives trying to find a niche in cereal ads, using large broccoli and carrot costumes to promote the assigned cereal project for their job. But after a bunch of exhaustively unfunny gags about the broccoli and carrot suits, Charlie and Phil are fired by their boss, and poked fun at by the Evil Co-Worker (Kevin Nealon, a.k.a. "Frans" from "SNL," a man I personally loved in comedies but am not so sure about anymore). Left at home with nothing to do, Charlie pulls his Shy, Cute Kid out of the day care service he had just started going to, only to get a brilliant idea: Why not open up his own day care center with Phil? It will, of course, be called "Daddy Day Care," hence the title of the movie, and Charlie and Phil, who cannot even help their own kids use the "potty," will of course run around and chase the little weasels. The filmmakers want laughter to ensue. It does not.

Every movie like this of course has a villain. In this case it's Miss Harridan (Anjelica Huston), whose name rhymes with Harry Dan, if that means anything. She is the head mistress of a competing day care service. She describes her children as vines, attaching to a plant and growing, or something like that. We see her ruling her day care service with an iron fist, teaching her kids four languages. She even says, "Five, we're starting Portugese next month." If you ask me, this isn't much of a bad thing, but the screenplay thinks that by the time it introduces us to Harry Dan we will feel sympathy for Charlie's character. Even in the weakest of films I usually feel sympathy. I didn't in this case. I wanted Miss Harry Dan to take the kids from Daddy Day Care, calm them down and teach them French. Call me strict. Call me a guy who doesn't like cheap pokes at comedy and character attachment.

Miss Harry Dan watches as the children attending her day care service slowly dissipate, leaving her with one choice, the same choice every movie villain or villainess makes: To sabotage the competition. Why do movies like this always do this? Have you ever met a leader of a day care service who would be willing to put cockroaches in food, unleash farm animals and rip the cord out of a bouncy castle (with children playing inside), just to stop a fundraiser for a competing day care service? Not me. If I ever did, I would recommend that person go to some serious counseling.

And every movie like this will, of course, towards the end, have a point where the good guys fail. In this case, Charlie's Daddy Day Care service is ruined by Harry Dan at the fundraiser, he gets another job promotion, he leaves his two employees of Daddy Day Care (including the newly recruited "Star Trek" fanatic Marvin, played by Steve Zahn) by themselves. The service falls apart. But then he remembers that his son, Ben, wants his daddy to be with him and not be busy at work. The thought that by sticking with his current job may make four times as much as a day care service fails to enter Charlie's brain, and he once again re-opens Daddy Day Care, and then the competition really gets fierce. Charlie even goes to Miss Harry Dan's school and takes back all his old kids. The thought that perhaps their parents might not approve of their children being taken to another day care service without their knowledge seems to escape the screenplay, which makes Charlie deliver a forced speech about how kids aren't like vines. Miss Harry Dan watches on in disgust. Charlie and Harry Dan essentially act like children the entire way throughout the film, which made me wonder whether the adults, or so they are called, should even be in charge of easily-molded children.

"Daddy Day Care" doesn't avoid the cliches, it is one. It's not funny, I chuckled once or twice but that's about it. Eddie Murphy is good in this film, and Steve Zahn plays a good "Star Trek" freak, but that's about it. When "Daddy Day Care" was over, I thought back upon how much better movies like "Mrs. Doubtfire" were, that though recycled were actually funny and amusing. And then I overheard a child not more than eight or nine, leaving the theater, who said, "That movie was funny." It made me think twice. This film really isn't meant to be a movie for adults, and it doesn't and, I suppose, shouldn't really appeal to adults. I have mixed feelings over just how to recommend it. I came up with this: Adults stay away, but kids will have a ball. I just wish all films could be as equally enjoyable as "Shrek" or Pixar films. One can only dream.
Movie Guru Rating
Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better. Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better.
  2 out of 5 stars

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