Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Movie Review: Daddy Day Care (2003)


A family-friendly comedy, Daddy Day Care finds and maintains a pleasantly amusing tone.

Charlie (Eddie Murphy) and his friend Phil (Jeff Garlin) are laid off from their jobs at a marketing firm. Charlie's wife Kim (Regina King) returns to work and he is left to care for their four-year-old son Ben, as the family can no longer afford the expensive Chapman Academy daycare run by the imperious Miss Harridan (Anjelica Huston).

Charlie and Phil spot a business opportunity and open the value-priced Daddy Day Care business in Charlie's house. At first the two fathers are overwhelmed looking after a gaggle of kids. Gradually they gain a handle on the business, find success, and expand by hiring a third teacher, Star Trek fan Marvin (Steve Zahn). Miss Harridan perceives a threat and lets loose child services inspector Dan Kubitz (Jonathan Katz) to try and shut down the upstart day care.

Directed by Steve Carr, Daddy Day Care is a sometimes funny and always harmless piece of family entertainment. Tapping into several middle class societal themes of the day, including corporate layoffs, a scarcity of jobs, parental angst to get a jump on child education, and difficulties in finding adequate daycare spaces, the film rides Eddie Murphy's star power towards laughs with heart.

And Murphy is in fine form, allowing his softer persona to shine through as a driven dad forced to transition into a new role and finding a previously unimagined level of contentment in being close to both his son and other children. The sharp one-liners and acerbic wit are still here, but toned down for a family audience and stripped of their urban ghetto edge.

Miss Harridan is the villain of the piece, the ultimate smug disciplinarian with a tense smile that fools no one. Anjelica Huston enjoys the role and her stuck-up mannerisms contrast well with Murphy's easy sense of cool.

Carr keeps the mood light, and with a dozen kids blazing around a suburban house, it's easy to keep the energy high and the gags coming. A few of the children (including a young Elle Fanning) and their parents are provided with rudimentary personality definitions, but Daddy Day Care does not try to take itself seriously enough to care too deeply about individuals. Rather, the ultra bureaucratic Mr. Kubitz and Sci-Fi fan Marvin are trotted out to add to the sense of wacky merriment.

Unpretentious but effective, Daddy Day Care earns the participation ribbon.






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