Daddy Day Care review by Mike Long

Oh no, here we go again. Over the last few years, there have been several occasions in which a comedy was blasted by critics during its theatrical release, but when I caught it on home video, I found it to be hilarious. Thus, we have the problem with reviewing comedies. Sense of humor is an individual trait and we all laugh at different things. Add to that the fact that many critics don't want to be the one who praises a stupid comedy. But, I don't have that fear, and that's why I'm here to tell you that I really liked Daddy Day Care.

Eddie Murphy stars in Daddy Day Care as Charlie Hinton, a marketer (I think) for a breakfast cereal company. When the vegetable-based "Veggie-Os" cereal tanks, Charlie and his partner, Phil (Jeff Garlin) are fired, forcing them to stay home with their kids. The loss of income means that Charlie's son, Ben (Khamani Griffin) can no longer attend the elite Chapman Academy, which is overseen by Mrs. Harridan (Anjelica Huston). Unable to find new jobs, Charlie and Phil decide to open an in-home daycare. However, they know much more about running a business than they do about caring for children, so there approach to childcare is unique, to say the least. But, as Charlie and Phil begin to bond with the kids, the business venture becomes an act of love, much to the chagrin of Mrs. Harridan.

The really weird thing about Daddy Day Care is that it was marketed as an Eddie Murphy vehicle, but it isn't. Yes, Murphy is the star of the film, and he's in almost every scene, but he really does appear to be sleepwalking through the film. But, instead of destroying Daddy Day Care, this forces the rest of the cast to step up to the plate. Jeff Garlin (who could easily be George Wendt's younger brother) handles the physical comedy in the film and has some funny moments. Steve Zahn appears in the film as Marvin, a mail-room clerk and sci-fi fanatic whose child-like mannerisms make him the perfect fit at "Daddy Day Care". The kids are good too. Khamani Griffin, who plays Murphy's son, is very good, and one of the most convincing 4-year olds that I've ever seen in a film. (He's either a great actor, or they simply turned the camera on and caught his actions -- either way, he's very convincing.) The rest of the children focus on various stereotypes, but I really liked the kid who refused to take off his Flash costume. Not because of this idiosyncrasy, but simply because it’s nice to see The Flash getting some props in a film.

While the cast is good, it’s the script that really hums in Daddy Day Care. Yes, the premise, which is essentially Mr. Mom opens a day care, is very weak, but this allows screenwriter Geoff Rodkey (“LateLine”, “Politically Incorrect”) a chance to work a broad range of humor into the film. For the general audiences, you’ve got the physical humor and the kid who farts all the time. And to be honest, some of the “kids say the darndest things” type humor is cute. But, there are some great subtle jokes here, most notably the very first thing that Charlie and Phil do when the kids arrive. Zahn’s oddball character has some great moments, and Jonathan Katz appears in a scene-stealing cameo.

So, the question is, why did critics ravage the film, besides the fact that comedy means something different to everyone. Well, some may have been disappointed by Murphy’s lackluster performance. But, I can tell you that anyone with young children most likely love this film. The scene in which Charlie and his wife search for a suitable day care will seem ludicrous to some, but trust me, it’s very true. Also, father’s will relate to the stigma which Charlie and Phil face as two males who want to run a day care. And, their sheer ineptitude at controlling the children is good for many laughs. Daddy Day Care may be a stupid comedy, but there are many elements of funny truth to it, and it’s the first of Eddie Murphy’s so-called “family films” that I would let a child watch. For those of you who don’t have children, and are heterosexual males who feel that this film isn’t for you, allow me to say this: Lacy Chabert in a schoolgirl uniform. ‘Nuf said.

Daddy Day Care is dropped-off on DVD by Columbia/Tri-Star Home Entertainment. The DVD contains both the full-frame and widescreen versions of the film. For this review, only the widescreen version was screened. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp, but there is a noticeable amount of grain on the picture. In many of the daytime scenes, the picture looked a bit too bright, making the background appear washed out. (I double-checked the brightness setting on my TV to be sure.) This problem aside, the colors look very good, and the transfer shows on a minor amount of artifacting. The DVD features a Dolby Digital 5.1 track. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects, and the music in the film sounds fine as well. However, the surround sound effects discreet to the point of seeming non-existent, but there is a touch of bass response from the music.

While Daddy Day Care was a surprising delight, the extras on the DVD are a disappointment. There are four featurettes, “Good Morning Eddie Murphy” (3 minutes), “Meet the Kids of Daddy Day Care“ (6 minutes), “Quiet on the Set!” (6 minutes), and “What did that Kid Say?” (3 minutes), which offer comments from the kids and some behind-the-scenes footage. These segments explore the child actors, Eddie Murphy, and the director. However, these featurettes rely on the “funny” comments from the kids and they blur together immediately. There are three set-top games, none of which are very exciting. The “bloopers reel” is the exact same one which appears during the closing credits of the film. The origina theatrical trailer for Daddy Day Care is presented here, letterboxed at 1.85:1. The highlight of the extras is a 3 1/2 minute animated feature entitled “Early Bloomer”. This is from Sony Imageworks, the company which made the Oscar-winning “The Chubbchubbs!”, and the storyboard artist for that film, Kevin Johson, directed “Early Bloomer”. The short, but amusing piece deals with maturing tadpoles and it is quite good.

7 out of 10 Jackasses

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