reviewed by Marci Miller
Hands down, the previews for Daddy Day Care have been the funniest to come along in ages. The prospect of adult males trying to deal all day with little kids whose sole purpose is the destruction of civilized life as we know it is a pretty amusing premise. In other words, guys trying to accomplish the impossible task that women do all the time would certainly be fodder for a couple good guffaws. Maybe even food for thought. Well, hoodwinked again, folks.
Not only is Daddy Day Care not very funny, but it isn’t charming, sweet or insightful either. Usually it’s just shallow and boring.
It seems TV writer Geoff Rodkey was in between gigs, so his wife went to work and he stayed home to take care of their young child. Within a day or two, Rodkey discovered he didn’t like doing day care, not one bit. But being a Los Angeles guy, he’s trained to turn adversity into a silver lining, so he says, “Let’s do this comedy about guys doing day care.” From this one-joke idea from a guy who hated taking care of his own kid comes the premise for this movie. And it didn’t improve one iota on its way up the Hollywood food chain.
Eddie Murphy (I Spy) is Charlie, a hard-driving product developer for a cereal company whose wife, played by Regina King ( Jerry Maguire), wants to return to her law career. Like all the other parents in their upscale neighborhood, they can’t find affordable day care for their adorable 3-year old son, Ben (Khamani Griffin). They feel forced to enroll him in Chapman Academy, an outrageously expensive private school where the kids are so programmed to achieve that the ones in kindergarten are already taking their pre-SATS. The school is run by Miss Harridan, played by Angelica Huston (Blood Work) doing her best Cruella DeVil imitation. (“Family values? Who cares about family values?”)
When Charlie and his friend Phil (Jeff Garlin, TV’s Curb Your Enthusiasm) lose their jobs and remain unemployed for weeks, they open up a day-care center in Charlie’s spotless home. Even though they don’t have a clue about the needs of their own kids, much less kids in general, they blithely advertise their new business. One by one, a dozen desperate mothers drop their kids off at Daddy Day Care, handing over their hard-earned day-care dollars.
The kids are an absolutely fantastic group of actors. You can’t help but adore the one who can’t aim, the one who kicks, the one who loves bribes, the allergic one, and especially the one wearing a Flash costume who swallows the bottle of soap, and then blows bubbles out his mouth. They’re so wonderful you keep wishing Murphy and his majorly unfunny sidekick would exit the screen and leave it to the kids. Alas, no such luck.
The story ploddingly focuses on Charlie; and Murphy, though still in possession of his engaging persona, is much less raw and wild now that he’s grown up. Even his famous cow-laugh, which could keep me grinning for days afterwards, is now gone.
The new entrepreneurs struggle against anti-male prejudice and Ms. Harridan’s sabotage. They increase the staff with a strange and loveable misfit who actually likes playing with kids (Steve Zahn, National Security). And along the way, in the benign chaos the big boys create, somehow the kids thrive. Every now and then you hear a platitude about how important it is for fathers to know more about their kids, but –in the only realistic note in the movie — it’s still the moms, not the dads, who pick up the kids from Daddy Day Care.