A review of “Daddy Day Care” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: **

Rating: PG for excessive bathroom humor

Run Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

 

 

          As the current economy steadily forces moms and dads into unemployment, a comedy chronicling one man’s fight to make it as Mr. Mom seems felicitous.  When that dad is Eddie Murphy, it’s a sure bet that flashes of genuine humor and pervasive nonsense will be part of the mix.

          Charlie Hinton (Murphy) is dancing the 9 to 5 as a product development executive at a major food company, pushing such sure-to-fail fare as Veggie O’s, the first vegetable-flavored breakfast cereal (ugh).  His four-year old son Ben (Khamani Griffin) is newly enrolled at the prestigious Chapman Preschool, where an average day consists of French grammar, Tai Chi, and SAT prep.

When the axe falls, Charlie is unable to find work.  In a flash of role reversal, wife Kim (Regina King) picks up the keys to the Benz and sets out to scrape up a lowly hourly rate as an entry-level attorney.  The couple is forced to pull Ben from Chapman, and Charlie haunts the playground with the other “between opportunities” dads, pretending to extol the virtues of spare time.

          A passing comment by a mom-pal about the lack of quality childcare gives Charlie an idea.  Armed with little but bravado and desperation, he and former co-worker Phil (Jeff Garlin) open their own at-home day care, a hands-on preschool at reasonable rates.

          Needless to say, Daddy Day Care is a disaster.  The dads try everything short of Ritalin and restraints to keep control of the chaotic situation, but all hell breaks loose on a daily basis.  When they finally get the hang of caring for a posse of four-year olds (naptimes, organized activities, healthy snacks, etc.), Charlie and Phil have wiped out virtually half of Chapman’s student body.  Much to the consternation of dominatrix-ish headmistress Miss Harridan (Angelica Huston), who believes in discipline (and conversational Portuguese) at all costs.

          Humor comes to the rescue in the form of Murphy’s self-effacing delivery, and wacky Steve Zahn as an ex-employee (and obsessive Trekkie) who reluctantly joins Daddy Day Care when extra emergency child supervision is required. 

          What’s not to love about a group of pre-schoolers doing their kids-say-the-darndest-things thing?  The problem can’t be laid at the feet of the small fry; it’s firmly rooted in the moderately silly script, excessive potty humor, and a cringe-worthy climax that preaches the evils of neglecting your little ones. (Michael Keaton played it much closer to the vest in 1983’s “Mr. Mom”, a comparable concept that poked into the psychology of the male ego and the threat of neighboring hot housewives).  

 Murphy is no dummy --- he raked in a fortune as the kid-friendly Dr. Doolittle and it appears that he’s going wring the formula bone dry.