[box cover]

Daddy Day Care

Daddy Day Care (2003) is so lazily formulaic it actually has the gall to open with Katrina and the Waves' "Walking on Sunshine," that effervescent '80s pop ditty that was once the ubiquitous chanson du jour for countless spirited romantic comedy trailers before getting retired due to extreme overuse several years ago. If Daddy Day Care succeeds at anything, it's in proving that the song has clearly not been mothballed long enough. Ah, if only everything in this film were simply stale. Despite a promising trailer that suggested the movie might offer up plentiful mayhem for the kids, while providing a smattering of chuckles for the grown-ups thanks to the keen comic timing of Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm sidekick, Jeff Garlin, Daddy Day Care only delivers on the former. It's actually worse than expected. Much worse. Based on a cash-in script by gag writer Geoff Rodkey, and directed incompetently by Steve Carr, whose rap sheet includes Dr. Dolittle 2 (2001) and Next Friday (2000), this is easily the worst of Eddie Murphy's family-friendly vehicles. Placed alongside the wreckage of the funnyman's most recent flops, it is also further evidence that he's entered another "Fat Elvis" phase. One of most prodigiously gifted comedic talents of the last 20 years, it appeared as if Murphy was entering a career renaissance in the late '90s with the uproarious multi-character combination of The Nutty Professor and Bowfinger, but those artistic triumphs have been followed up by a steady stream of uninspired turns in safe Hollywood product that have squandered his talents. This most recent $20 million addition to Murphy's bottom line is a Mr. Mom Xerox that has its out-of-work dads starting a day-care program to take advantage of their neighborhood's booming snot-nosed kid market. Somehow, this puts them in competition with a prestigious local pre-school, headed up by a severe schoolmistress (Angelica Huston), the very existence of which suggests that the market for this kind of operation isn't starved at all. Internal logic be damned; these filmmakers need conflict! Besides, once Eddie and his comedic cohorts swing into action, the audience will be too doubled over with laughter to notice. That's where Daddy Day Care snaps through the guard rail. The jokes here are far too familiar to be funny, and there's little the able performers on hand can do to liven up this limp material. Garlin is reduced mostly to the loud and clumsy fat guy role, going against his expertise for underplaying. He does manage a few decent ad libs, but some of his most promising bits, the best of which has him belting out '70s AM radio standards like "Rhinestone Cowboy" and "Lime in the Coconut" to placate their rambunctious charges, are killed by the grating performances from the over-trained child actors. Perhaps the filmmakers' most unforgivable transgression is wasting the great (and too little seen) Jonathan Katz, who makes a few brief appearances as a neurotic state inspector. Meanwhile, there's the spectacle of Eddie Murphy happily embracing his role as the post-stand-up Bill Cosby of a new generation. Columbia TriStar presents Daddy Day Care in both anamorphic (1.85:1) and full-screen (1.33:1) transfers with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras include four featurettes ("Meet the Daddy Day Care Kids," "Good Morning, Mr. Murphy," "Quiet on the Set!" and "What Did That Kid Say"), three games ("Name the Noise Maker," "Kid Card Match Up," and "Odd One Out"), an animated short entitled "Early Bloomers," several theatrical trailers, and a blooper reel that is identical to the one that runs in the film's closing credits. Keep-case.
—Clarence Beaks

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