Daddy Day Care comes off like a movie developed entirely by a studio’s marketing department and focus groups–funny, since that’s exactly what Eddie Murphy‘s character does for a living (albeit for wretched cereal and not wretched movies) before getting sacked and going into the daycare biz. This movie was produced for exactly two reasons: because parents of small children are suckers for movies featuring small children (as a parent of a three-year-old and a one-year-old, I’m qualified to say that) and to give Eddie Murphy yet another putrid family vehicle in which he can waste his talents.
Why does Murphy feel he can run a day care? Why, because he’s so good at ignoring his own child, of course. The real answer is: because that’s what the movie’s about. Daddy Day Care is not a movie in which plot flows naturally from characters behaving according to their nature, but rather a movie in which characters (and I use that term loosely) do whatever they have to do in order to keep the plot (and I use that term loosely) moving forward.
I used the words “wretched” and “putrid” to describe this movie above, and that might be a bit harsh. I didn’t actually feel physically ill while watching Daddy Day Care. But outside of the scenes of obnoxious and/or precocious three-year-olds wreaking havoc, this movie has nothing to offer. (Again, whether you consider even that much “something to offer” likely depends on your love for/tolerance for children.) None of Murphy’s typical energy comes through here–or rather, the energy that used to be typical of Murphy before he set off into the Inoffensive Family Schlock phase of his career.
|Daddy Day Care (2003)|
I don’t want you to think that I’m saying Murphy’s performance is understated; it’s not. This isn’t Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or Robin Willians in Awakenings; it’s a movie wasting the talents of its star.
Eddie Murphy is a man who once, not so long ago, was the funniest, most dangerous comedian in America, the obvious spiritual descendant of Richard Pryor. Murphy was a fiercely intelligent comedian, one who had no problem offending anyone for the sake of a good joke, one who had a mouth that would have fit in well in “Deadwood”. But in the early-to-mid 90′s, he started having kids–he now has five with his wife–and at some point handed the keys to the Pryor Legacy off to Chris Rock, who’s done pretty well with it. But it took the fire out of Murphy.
Why did this movie need Eddie Murphy? What did Murphy bring to this movie that a Ray Romano, for instance, wouldn’t have? Not that Murphy brought less than someone else would have, but he certainly didn’t bring more–except a name that used to mean something.
(While we’re on the subject, aren’t we getting close to the point of Murphy’s career where he winds up on some bad ABC sitcom? Wouldn’t the mid-2000′s version of Eddie Murphy fit perfectly into TGIF as the dad in some banal family sitcom with a long-suffering wife and three irrepressibly spunky children? You know it’s going to happen. Watch out for “Eddie!” in fall ’07.)
But back to the movie at hand: There’s nothing that happens in Daddy Day Care that isn’t utterly predictable–I swear, writer Geoff Rodkey must have had a copy of the script for Mr. Mom open in front of him while he worked on this screenplay. The direction by Steve Carr feels a step or two below amateurish, somewhat on level with 1980′s TV-movie quality. The story (which, as noted above, was far less important than Cute Kids Doing Cute Things) doesn’t even make much sense. (They don’t have the money to get a new building but can throw a lavish block party–to raise funds, no less–and get Cheap Trick to play? I know Cheap Trick are has-beens, but c’mon.) All of the acting is uninspired, even from Murpny and Steve Zahn, whom I normally like in this kind of fruit-loop third-banana role.
If you have little kids at home, you might get a couple of laughs out of Daddy Day Care. You might, but your kids probably won’t. Surprisingly little in this movie would actually appeal to kids in any way at all.
(You know what really kills me about this movie? It was a friggin’ hit.. Pulled down more than $100 million at the box office and has a sequel, Daddy Day Camp, coming out later this year. I honestly just don’t get it.)