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Thursday, 4 January 2018

Retro Review: Daddy Day Care (2003)

Daddy Day Care
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Steve Zahn, Regina King, Angelica Huston 
Genre: Comedy
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $164 million

Plot: Two men get laid off and have to become stay-at-home dads when they can't find jobs. This inspires them to open their own day-care centre

'Pleasant and Easy-Going Family Fare'

Eddie Murphy has made so many questionable film choices throughout his career; at the same time, however, some of those roles and films choices have defied my beliefs and denounced any doubts and scepticism that I may have had towards them. A few of those being Vampire In Brooklyn and Metro from the mid-1990s. & in Daddy Day Care, I'd add that film to that list. 

Father Charlie is relieved from his position as an advertising executive after his health food section is closed down, so with free time on his hands, and after not being able to afford daycare services at the affluent Chapman Academy, run by the tyrannical Miss Harridan, with support by his wife, Kim he and his friend Phil set up shop by opening their own daycare centre. They also enlist their friend, Marvin for their scheme and along the way, so-called workaholic Charlie learns not only what it takes to be a father, but what it means to be one as well. When Charlie and co become a hit, it isn't long until Miss Harridan reigns on their parade and goes out of her way to put a total stop to their deeds.

The film, like with so many other comedy offerings from the 1990s and early 2000s, received a savaging from critics throughout when it came out in 2003, insisting that the target audience was too young to understand the themes and ideas it tries to purport. In actual fact, Daddy Day Care is more of a family film, rather than a kids movie - something the critics seemed to overlook. For Murphy, he has spent the most part of the 2000s and post-2000s in lightweight, family-orientated G & PG movies that are devoid of cursing, adult content: so-called elements that not only dominated his offerings of the 1980s and 1990s - but they have been synonymous with and a huge part of Murphy's edgy & motor-mouthed brand of comedy. Old school Eddie Murphy's motor-mouthed brand of comedy that is. Here, Murphy takes a shot at the family market: the likes in which Robin Williams of whom he himself has managed to tap into during the 1990s, & with that, he saw greater success - and he too was originally a performer who, but for Mork & Mindy & Popeye, started out doing Adult-rated material, both onstage and onscreen during the early years. 

Despite the DVD cover, Daddy Day Care is not the typical comedy farce with low-brow jokes and humour, one would come to expect from a star in Eddie Murphy. And that is a good thing. Compared to the dire Dr Doolittle that relied on silly flatulence jokes & juvenile humour, thankfully, this movie is pleasing, pleasant and remains grounded with scarce amounts of G-rated comedy scattered in places. 

Murphy's incredibly nuanced performance not only makes a nice change from his fast-talking, potty-mouthed humour; it was also good to see him not overplay his role. His softer underbelly gets to shine through in moments, as Charlie, he finds contentment in not just his newly found role, but in his relationship with his son, Ben, which has its ups & downs yet the father & son bond remains tight-knit as ever before. The other performances were all right, with Angelica Huston revelling as the pretentious bad guy & Steve Zhan's Star Trekkie - mad character, Marvin. 

It's light, decent, at times sweet and inoffensive, as it should be and whilst it needed more clean humour to give it a boost, for a family movie, Daddy Day Care does the trick and fulfils most of its credentials. 

Final Verdict:

Still not the pinnacle of Murphy's best and released during a period when he was past his best as a performer and movies-wise, yet this is still, for me, a bigger improvement over the poorly I Spy, Showtime and The Adventures of Pluto Nash. & I'd take this over the woeful Nutty Professor II sequel. His star status and multi-million dollar hits may have fallen by the wayside, but, and despite the negative bashing, Daddy Day Care is still a decent and competent family affair that shows Murphy's performance beyond the buffoonish and at times, brash tone of his R-rated offerings. 

Daddy Day Care doesn't take itself too seriously, but at the same time, it doesn't plumb down to low lengths for a family film, and neither is it too overly sappy. 

In all, it is a respectable movie that whilst it doesn't play to Murphy's strengths, it does expose the lighter and less brash side of his personality that he rarely exudes in his other performances that we get to see here. & in movies such as Daddy Day Care, which, whilst it needed to be a tad more watchable, wasn't so bad. 

And for that alone, this film, along with Murphy's restrained turn was a huge welcome. 


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