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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 9, 2003

'Daddy Day Care' may leave parents squirming in their seats

By Jack Garner
Gannett News Service

DADDY DAY CARE (PG) One-and-a-Half Stars (Poor-to-Fair)

A bland, uninspired comedy with Eddie Murphy as a stay-at-home dad who opens a day care center. Jeff Garlin and Steve Zahn co-star for director Steve Carr. Columbia, 95 minutes.

Has Eddie Murphy given up on movies for audiences above the age of 10? Actually, the target for "Daddy Day Care" seems even lower — like maybe four.

"Daddy Day Care" stars Murphy as Charlie, a just-fired, stay-at-home father who decides if he's going to care for his own kid, he might as well take in a handful of other children and make a little money.

To help, he recruits his friend, Phil (Jeff Garlin), another laid-off dad. A pair of more inept parents you'd be hard-pressed to find.

Together, they're a "Mr. Mom" combo platter, trying to deal with potty training, preschool reading, art classes, lunch time and nap time. (That list of challenges is in the proper order — potty humor is very big in "Daddy Day Care," a sure sign of an unimaginative comedy.)

When the class grows in size, the boys take on a third child-care provider, a spaced-out "Star Trek" fanatic, played with bemused skill by Steve Zahn.

He's easily the funniest aspect of "Daddy Day Care," but has little screen time to keep us amused. Instead we're saddled with Garlin, Murphy's bland second banana.

Garlin (from HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm") portrayal is dull and uninspired. He's especially cloddish at pratfalls and other physical comedy, which should be this character's strength.

The usually superb Anjelica Huston, meanwhile, can do little to salvage her assignment: The film's broadly drawn villain. Gwyneth Harridan is owner and headmistress at the neighborhood's long-established and more traditional preschool program. She's a nefarious witch who runs the school like a Nazi youth camp. And, of course, she does everything she can to shut down or destroy her new competition at Daddy Day Care.

As scripted by Geoff Rodkey, "Daddy Day Care" is more dull and shallow than outright awful. It plays like the failed pilot of a TV sitcom. The direction does little to elevate the project. At the helm is Steve Carr, a music video veteran who also made "Dr. Doolittle 2" with Murphy.

For what it's worth, the many children in my preview audience seemed to be enjoying themselves. (The bathroom humor was a big hit, of course.) With this film, it's the adults who are running in the aisles and squirming in their seats.

Rated PG, with mild profanity, toilet humor.