Daddy Day Care

Okay, this may be sacrilegious to say, but Daddy Day Care is an amusing movie. This is the latest vehicle for Eddie Murphy, whose careers consists of veering erratically from hit to miss. Lately (The Adventures of Pluto Nash, I Spy) there are more misses than hits, but this means Murphy is due for something good before another prolonged slump. Daddy Day Care cannot really be considered a Murphy hit, since the enjoyable parts of the film are not due to him. Overall, the movie is pretty bland, but does have some amusing moments and does its best to milk laughs from a bevy of cute children. Murphy is Charlie Hinton, a newly laid-off advertising executive. He was working on selling healthy food to children, which is obviously an uphill battle. Fresh out of work, Charlie and his co-worker Phil (Jeff Garlin, Full Frontal, Bounce) have the idea to open an affordable alternative to the ultra-expensive day care offered by Mrs. Harridan (Angelica Huston, Blood Work, The Royal Tenenbaums).

The joke (stretched to the distance by screenwriter Geoff Rodkey) is that Charlie and Phil have no clue how to raise children. Charlie's wife Kim (Regina King, Down to Earth, Mighty Joe Young) is reentering the workforce to support the family, and she previously raised their son Ben (Khamani Griffin) full-time. Charlie and Phil apply their business acumen to their new day care business, but this means reading children a mission statement and holding focus groups. Things improve when they lure co-worker Marvin (Steve Zahn, National Security, Stuart Little 2), the Star Trek loving mailroom attendant, to join them. He hits it off with the kids, and despite all odds, Daddy Day Care survives and even begins poaching students from Harridan.

The elements that make Daddy Day Care work are Zahn and Garlin. They form a goofy odd couple, willing to do whatever it takes to make the children (and the viewer) laugh. Their characters go all out in terms of zaniness, and each willing makes a fool of himself in order to get the point across. Zahn's sense of humor works only when a script uses it properly. He has a sort of off-kilter sense of timing, and no one knows what to expect from him since his actions and words seem so random. Garlin is a big huge man, and looks extremely out of place handling little children. Murphy's role is the blandest. The failures of Murphy stem from attempts to broaden his fan base. He was funniest when he was the most outrageous. In Daddy Day Care, he is a shell of his former self. There is nothing edgy or sharp about his character. Granted, this is a family film, but Murphy would do better to return to his R-rated roots.

As a character, Charlie is the type of guy who is smart in all things business but lacking in other things. Part of what director Steve Carr (Dr. Dolittle 2, Next Friday) has to do is instill some sort of moral in the film. Gee, he cannot just make people laugh, there needs to be some point. Harridan's school may offer academic rigor and discipline, but kids have fun and learn meaningful lessons at Daddy Day Care. And parents learn too. Charlie was not paying enough attention to Ben, and Phil was afraid to potty train his son. Carr also has to exaggerate how incompetant Charlie and Phil are as fathers, to make their attempts at running a day care seem funnier. It doesn't always make sense, like when these advertising executives (fresh off a failed campaign to educate children on the importance of eating vegetables) serve nothing but junk food to their children for lunch. This example is what Daddy Day Care is guilty of on a larger scale, it is a little too eager to please, which makes some of the comedy come off as forced. Still, it is amusing enough to barely squeak by on its charms.

Haro Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 30 minutes, Rated PG for language.

Back to Movies