Daddy Day Camp

Movie Information

The Story: Eddie Murphy has transformed into Cuba Gooding Jr. for this sequel, which finds our hero struggling to keep a ramshackle summer camp from going under. The Lowdown: Painfully unfunny family fare that relies on bodily-function humor and the unseemly mugging of its star.
Score:

Genre: Comedy for the Easily Amused
Director: Fred Savage
Starring: Cuba Gooding Jr., Lochlyn Munro, Richard Gant, Tamala Jones, Paul Rae
Rated: PG

As much as I disliked Fred Savage’s Daddy Day Cramp, excuse me, Daddy Day Camp, I was inclined to give it a full star for a lack of flatulence gags. Oh, sure, the “three p’s” of PG-family comedy—pee, poop and puke—were well represented, but the ne plus ultra of such movies—the fart joke—was strangely absent. Then Cuba Gooding Jr. crawled into a tent with Paul Rae … and back down to its well-deserved half star Daddy Day Camp went. It’s just as well, since the best thing I can think of to say about the film is that it doesn’t attain the acute awfulness of last week’s Bratz—but by the same token, it lacks the grim “end of civilization as we know it” fascination of that discharge of dumbness.

OK, we knew the movie was going to be a stinker when we saw the trailer. I mean, here we have a sequel to a mediocre Eddie Murphy comedy that didn’t even measure up to the standards of the star of The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002) and Norbit (2007). This is not an auspicious start, but to recast Murphy’s Charlie Hinton character with Cuba Gooding Jr. (recently seen as second banana in Norbit) was the kind of decision generally associated with persons who are detained in facilities where one is allowed nothing sharper than plastic scissors. It gets worse. Even Jeff Garlin seems to have said no to reprising the supporting role of Phil, so the filmmakers hit on Paul Rae (last seen as “Road Crew Foreman” in Next). In fact, almost no one from the original was desperate enough for a repeat engagement.

Screenwriter Geoff Rodkey (he of R.V. and The Shaggy Dog infamy) did return to pen this thing—with assistance from four other scribes. That it took three guys to merely come up with the plot baffles science, though it’s perhaps explained by the fact that this unholy trio consisted of Rodkey, Joel Cohen (Cheaper by the Dozen and both Garfield movies) and Cohen’s partner in perfidy Alex Sokolow. And what is the plot? Charlie Hinton takes over a run-down day camp (financed by second mortgaging his house) and runs afoul of nasty upscale camp owner (and former childhood nemesis) Lance Warner (Lochlyn Munro, Deck the Halls), who plans on buying the camp as soon as the bank forecloses on Charlie. Someone actually paid these guys money to come up with that. Just think about that for a moment, but only for a moment, otherwise there’s a strong chance that you’ll be compelled to pick up a torch, march to Hollywood and set fire to the studio, which is probably illegal, even if not immoral.

From this story grows a barrage of unfunny jokes, including (but not limited to) an exploding outhouse, a urine-filled water balloon, several outbursts of projectile vomiting, poison ivy in indelicate areas, a blow to the groin and a dime-store-quality stuffed skunk that’s supposed to be real. If you want more for your money, there’s a lot of Cuba Gooding Jr. flailing his arms, running around and screaming like a 10-year-old girl at every opportunity. In other words, the man continues to embarrass himself (and the viewer), while proving how very little winning an Oscar really means.

Of course, since this is supposed to be all warm-hearted and family-like, we also get a bunch of daddy-issue material, mostly centered around Charlie and his Marine colonel father, Buck, played by another Norbit alumnus, Richard Gant, who looks downright perplexed by the whole thing. (Possibly his character is trying to figure out how his wife gave birth to Eddie Murphy who has mysteriously transformed into Cuba Gooding Jr.) All of this is directed by Fred Savage without a shred of creativity, and drowned in a ghastly James Dooley musical score of such forced jollity that you’ll want to go clear your musical palate with a large dose of death metal. In short, don’t subject yourself to this if you can possibly avoid it. Rated PG for for crude humor.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

10 thoughts on “Daddy Day Camp

  1. Dionysis

    Gee, Ken. There sure seems to be a run of lame-brained swill (such as this film) being churned out these days. Do you get, as an employment benefit, Employee Assistance Program services to deal with the psychological damage inflicted by having to watch such bilge? If not, you should.

  2. Ken Hanke

    Perhaps I should ask for such, but then I never heard back on my proposal that I should have been paid for two doses of cruel and unusual punishment instead of one when I sat through 231 minutes of GODS AND GENERALS back in 2003.

    But I keep in mind that we’re not far away from new films from Wes Anderson, David Cronenberg and the Coen Brothers — not to mention Julie Taymor’s ACROSS THE UNIVERSE (which looks like it’ll either be wonderful or just plain awful!).

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