Daddy Day Care Review
By Shawn McKenzie 05/09/2003
Eddie Murphy has unfortunately fallen into a rut. He was once a box office king in the ‘80s with hits like Beverly Hills Cop and Coming to America. For some reason, his more adult movies started losing appeal to the public. He found a second wind with “family” films like The Nutty Professor, Doctor Dolittle, and Shrek (the last one in voice form.) After three more adult-oriented flops in a row last year (Showtime, The Adventures of Pluto Nash, and I-Spy), it looked like he was either going to have to do another sequel to one of his hits, or do an all new family film. He chose the latter, and we now have Daddy Day Care, which, if it is a hit, might trap him forever in the genre.
Charlie Hinton (Murphy) is a marketing professional who works in the health division of a food manufacturer. Along with his friend and marketing partner Phil (Jeff Garlin), they both work so hard that they tend to ignore the needs of their families. Their latest product is a vegetable-based cereal, and when it predictably flops with their focus group made up of children, their entire division is laid off (gee…kids not liking cereal that tastes like vegetables?) Their boss, Jim Fields (Wallace Langham), informs Charlie and Phil that they too are being let go with the rest of the division. He now has more time to spend with his four-year-old son Ben (Khamani Griffin), since his wife, Kim (Regina King), has returned to her old job of being a lawyer. Charlie continues trying to find another job himself, and after six weeks of looking, he becomes frustrated. He and Kim are also frustrated that there isn’t a decent daycare center in the neighborhood. They are either too expensive, like Chapman Academy, run by the strict Miss Gwyneth Harridan (Anjelica Huston), or they are dumpy and/or dangerous, like the Touch of Eden pre-school, located in a trailer park. One day, while playing with Ben in the park, Charlie comes up with the perfect solution. Taking a suggestion from stay-at-home mom Peggy (Siobhan Fallon Hogan), which was that anyone who brought a decent daycare center to the neighborhood would make lots of money, he decides to do just that. It would solve their money problem and their daycare problem at the same time. He recruits Phil to join him in starting Daddy Day Care, based on the premise that the kids could benefit from a male influence. After passing out flyers at strategic parental locations, they get a few kids to take care of in their new business, located in Charlie’s house. Those kids include Ben and Max (Max Burkholder), Phil’s son with his wife Sheila (Laura Kightlinger.) After the first day, they realize it is going to be much harder than they thought. They soon strategize, and it starts working. It works so well in fact that they gain kids formerly going to Chapman, making Miss Harridan very mad. She tries to get them shut down by sending Mr. Dan Kubitz (Jonathan Katz) from Child Services to come and inspect them. One of the rules Mr. Kubitz insists they follow is to have a caretaker-to-child ratio of five-to-one, and they currently had eleven kids. To solve that problem, they hire their former mailroom co-worker Marvin (Steve Zahn), a Trekkie/comic book geek, to join them. He only agrees to join them after he meets Kelli (Leila Arcieri), the attractive mother of one of the kids. When the inspection fails to shut down Charlie’s business, Miss Harridan, along with her assistant Jenny (Lacey Chabert), resort to measures that are more drastic. With the possibility of losing the business, plus the opportunity to get his old job back, and his observation of Ben’s jealousy over the daycare kids, Charlie has to decide if he really wants to keep Daddy Day Care going.
While The Nutty Professor and Doctor Dolittle offered Murphy a chance to employ his unique brand of comedy along a talented supporting cast, he is not so fortunate in this movie. Those first two movies were remakes, yet both of them were more original than Daddy Day Care. This is the same old daddy-works-too-hard-but-learns-in-the-end-that-family-is-more-important flick. Murphy and Garlin, who shows off some physical comedy that he has yet to employ in his role as Larry’s agent Jeff Greene in HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, save the movie from complete staleness. The kids are interesting at first, but their quirks (one kid screams his head off until he is given a dollar, another kid wears his Flash costume 24/7, etc.) get old fast. Zahn is fun to watch, and even though he overdoes it a bit, he plays a good geek (I should know, since I am one.)
One thing you can say about Daddy Day Care is that, while not original, it is a much more entertaining movie to take your kids to than recent flicks like The Lizzie McGuire Movie or Agent Cody Banks. My main fear is that Murphy will stop trying to do films that are more adult in nature just so he can keep having hits. Maybe he should pull a John Travolta and do an indie movie helmed by a hot new director. Think about it…Travolta’s only hits in the decade before Pulp Fiction were the Look Who’s Talking films. Keep it in mind Eddie!
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