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Daddy Day Care (May 8/03)

As far as silly Eddie Murphy comedies go, you could certainly do worse than Daddy Day Care. We've just got to resign ourselves to the fact that he'll never do another Beverly Hills Cop or 48 Hours type of movie; this is it for him.

Murphy stars as Charlie Hinton, a successful ad man at a big food company. After his latest project fails (he was to sell a cereal called "Veggie-Os" to kids), he's summarily canned - along with his friend, Phil (Jeff Garlin). The two are still unemployed several weeks later, when Charlie comes up with a plan to open a day care center called, appropriately enough, Daddy Day Care. Though Charlie and Phil initially have some trouble dealing with the kids, they begin to get the hang of it - which raises the ire of Mrs. Harridan (Anjelica Houston), the headmistress of a local school for young children.

The most surprising thing about Daddy Day Care is how entertaining it is, despite the juvenile humor and laughably predictable storyline. Though the film's clearly been designed to appeal to young children, there's enough here to hold the interest of most adults - the performances being the most obvious attraction. Aside from Murphy, who is admittedly charming (though he's essentially playing the same character he always plays in the majority of his family-friendly flicks), the film is peppered with quirky actors like Garlin, Huston, and noted scene-stealer Steve Zahn. Zahn, in particular, is a lot of fun as the Star Trek geek that winds up working for Charlie and Phil. And Garlin, best known for his role on Curb Your Enthusiasm, is surprisingly effective playing a character that's nothing like Jeff Greene.

As for the storyline, there's nothing here we can't see coming miles away. It's expected that Mrs. Harridan will make several attempts to shut down Daddy Day Care, and it's also expected that she won't succeed. It's easy enough to overlook that sort of stuff - up to a point. The last 20-minutes is so crammed full of syrupy developments, it's impossible for the film not to leave a bad taste. A saccharine denoument is par for the course with movies of this ilk, but Daddy Day Care doesn't know when to quit. Give us the comeuppance of Mrs. Harridan and Charlie's realization that his previous job was empty; that's fine. But the film stretches things out by having Charlie actually go back to his old job - a completely superfluous addition. Through the course of the movie, it becomes clear that Charlie's made the realization that there are more important things than money and success - so having him discover a painting by his son at an important board meeting is just silly.

Having said that, there's no denying that Daddy Day Care is an agreeable enough time-waster. The presence of folks like Zahn and Garlin alone is enough to provide most adults with some entertainment, while the kids will just be happy with the fart jokes and broad comedy.

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