Directed by Steve Carr.
Running Time: 93 mins
It's worth sitting through to the very end of Daddy Day Care's credits to see the outtakes, and to find that there is a new job on a film set: "kid wrangler'. I am used to horse or cattle wranglers, but a child wrangler?
Charlie (Eddie Murphy) and Phil (Jeff Garlin) are advertising managers at a company which markets food to children. They are retrenched when their latest product, a vegetable cereal, bombs with child consumers. New job offers do not roll in and so they become househusbands. In the process of meeting other parents, Phil and Charlie discover that there is a gap in the market for affordable and enjoyable day care. They found a Daddy Day Care Centre. When Mrs Harridan (Angelica Huston), the headmistress of the very expensive local pre-school, finds out she has some competition, the gloves come off in the day-care war.
I can only imagine how hard it was to work with the large number of children in this film, but director Steve Carr got good performances out of most of them. The best one by far is Ben, (Khamani Griffin) Charlie's son, who looks, sounds and has the same engaging appeal as Corey Baker did in the 1960's TV show, Julia.
The same plaudits cannot be given to the adults. Their performances are either lazy or too arch. Eddie Murphy and Jeff Garlin keep falling back on one-liners to inject some energy into the contrived scenes and set-ups, while Angelica Huston is way over-the-top in the aptly titled role of Mrs Harridan.
The give away in a feature film comedy, when the humour of the story is thin or the gag is being played out for too long, is the amount of music the director loads onto the sound track. Daddy Day Care is wall-to-wall music.
It's a pleasant enough film, excellently edited, with a few funny scenes and the seemingly obligatory toilet jokes. Unfortunately it just touches on a whole series of gender and equity issues in relation to day-care which could have made for a much more funny and insightful film. Daddy Day Care plays it cutely safe.
Fr Richard Leonard SJ is the Director of the Australian Catholic Film Office.