Daddy Day Care

2003, Movie, PG, 93 mins

Review

DADDY DAY CARE
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Family-oriented, politically correct and so derivative that there's no comedy left in its sitcom cliches, this wan farce is distinguished only by the fact that it features Eddie Murphy's most relaxed (which is to say least braying) performance in ages. Given that for most of its running time he's surrounded by squealing brats, that's something for which to be profoundly grateful. Best friends Charlie Hinton (Murphy) and Phil (Jeff Garlin), are unceremoniously fired from their high-powered advertising jobs after a disastrous product test involving their current account, a healthy breakfast cereal called "Veggie-Os." Unable to find new jobs, the guys find themselves at home with the kids while their wives bring home the bacon. Inspiration strikes as they're parked uncomfortably at the playground, surrounded by stay-at-home moms complaining about the sorry state of daycare, whose horrors Charlie and his wife, Kim (Regina King), have seen first hand. It's trailer-park baby herders at one end of the financial spectrum and Miss Gwyneth Harridan's (Anjelica Huston) Chapman Academy at the other — sure, tots deconstruct fairy tales and learn Portuguese at Chapman, but for what it costs they should be graduating with professional degrees. Charlie and Phil cook up a plan to open an affordable alternative to Chapman and, after convincing the local moms that if women can storm the boardroom, men can look after children, Daddy Day Care is up and running. In keeping with the movie's painfully formulaic construction, even the tykes are types, each more insufferable than the next. There's a boy who won't take off his Flash costume and another who only speaks Klingon; a bespectacled geek who's allergic to everything and a pint-sized operator whose high-pitched separation issues can be quieted with a dollar bill; a rude bully, a little princess and a shy kid who doesn't play well with others. Nasty Miss Harridan tries to shut the place down, Phil and Charlie become better dads, the kids learn how to get along — especially after Daddy Day Care's staff expands to include Star Trek-loving goofball Marvin (Steve Zahn), who has a real way with youngsters — and everybody gets a hug. The film seems longer than its 93-minute running time, but kids will probably enjoy its potty humor, many scenes of 4-year-olds getting the better of harried adults and the inevitable moment when a cute little girl kicks the fat guy in the nads. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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