Daddy Day Care (2003) / Comedy-Family
MPAA Rated: PG for language
Running Time: 93 min.
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Jeff Garlin, Steve Zahn, Regina King, Anjelica Huston, Khamani Griffin, Jonathan Katz, Lacey Chabert, Elle Fanning, Cheap Trick (cameo)
Director: Steve Carr
Screenplay: Geoff Rodkey
You begin to wonder how someone as immensely talented as Eddie Murphy (I Spy, The Adventures of Pluto Nash) would be pigeonholed into buddy movies and films like Daddy Day Care, essentially family fare. I suppose given the kinds of things he was involved with in the early 90s, we should be thankful he at least found a niche where he did very little damage to his career and just sought to entertain. Basically, it's fun to watch Eddie, even in a bad idea for a movie, and Daddy Day Care is certainly no different. It's a throwaway film, entertaining while it's playing in front of you, yet doesn't give you much to think about afterward.
The film kicks off with Eddie and Jeff Garlin (Sleepover, Full Frontal) playing two advertising pitch-men assigned to a no-win product, a breakfast cereal called "Veggie-Os". Of course, the idea tanks, and so do their jobs, and in today's bad job market, they struggle to find new ones and the bills mount up. Since the local moms have been groveling about the lack of quality day care in the area, Eddie sees an opportunity of starting his own business, and together with Garlin and new hire, Steve Zahn (National Security, Joy Ride), they forge "Daddy Day Care", a place where a kid can be a kid. Trouble brews when rival day care owner, Anjelica Huston (Blood Work, Ever After), begins sending the child services inspector to their doors, in the hopes of raising the bar too high for the men to handle.
I won't go so far as to say Daddy Day Care is a good film, because clearly it could have been so much better in many areas, but then it never tried to be anything but entertaining. As entertainment goes, it does an adequate job, kind of like the men in the film itself. The kids are "movie kids", either played for cuteness or obnoxiousness, which can be annoying either way, and they do annoy quite a bit here. However, with Eddie in the middle of things, he carries most of the weight on his shoulders in terms of laughs and manages to keep the chaos together.
As Eddie has entered his 40s, he continues a familiar trend among edgy Black comedians, emasculated to become popular to mainstream America. However, Eddie still has enough clout to choose the roles he wants, so he seems to still be pulling the strings. It's hard to decide now whether Eddie is trying to be the next Bill Cosby, choosing to push forward the notion that African-Americans are not the thugs you see in the media, or the next Richard Pryor, whose wings were clipped by a Hollywood system who saw him as too dangerous to market without watering down his shtick to the point of permanent dilution. Considering how much money his family fare has made thus far, the path looks rosier as the next Cosby for Eddie, which I will respect until the day he makes Leonard Part 6 or Ghost Dad.
-- Followed by Daddy Day Camp (2007).
©2003 Vince Leo