It’s easy to find fault with Eddie Murphy. His recent movie track record is not good. He had what I called the trifecta of bad movies last year: “Pluto Nash,” “Showtime” and “I Spy.”
Now Sony Pictures rolls out another Eddie Murphy film, strategically placed between “X2: X-Men United” and “The Matrix Reloaded.” Murphy’s new movie is “Daddy Day Care.”
“Day Care” is easy to hate. The funniest scenes are in the trailer, which has been almost omnipresent on television and in theaters.
Murphy plays Charlie Hinton, an overachieving marketer for a cereal company. He is pushing a cereal called Veggie-Os, which is a broccoli- and carrot-based product. It bombs mightily. (Who could have known that kids would hate a vegetable-based cereal?) Charlie gets fired, along with his co-worker and friend, Phil (Jeff Garlin).
This puts the moms at work, with Charlie and Phil stuck at home with the kids. They strike on a novel idea: open a day-care center. The center begins in Charlie’s home, and we see two fathers, whose previous involvement with their children was limited to being there for conception, struggle to care for the kids.
Much of the comedy stems from the children. They put things in their mouths that an adult would run from. They constantly emit bodily noises and have yet to figure out the proper use of the bathroom. Some of the kids have cute personality quirks: one child stays dressed in a Flash costume, while another speaks only the Klingon language from Star Trek.
Enter Steven Zahn’s character, Marvin, who is a comic book/sci-fi geek. Marvin is dopey and silly, and the children love him because he’s on their level. Zahn is actually able to hold his own with the kids and not let them steal all the scenes.
The movie also uses a plot device involving Angelica Huston’s Miss Harridan. Miss Harridan runs a rival day care that looks like a good place on the surface, but her dictatorial style is shown as demanding too much of pre-schoolers.
Her role in the movie is to undermine what Charlie and Phil are trying to do—to play the heavy. But Huston’s turn as Miss Harridan is just another example of a good actor slumming for the money. Huston is totally wasted here.
Yet, “Daddy Day Care” is not a horrible movie. Yes, if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the funny parts. Yes, the story is a far reach in plausibility. But I laughed at some of the scenes, and the kids were cute and fun to watch.
It’s easy to board the Eddie Murphy bash-wagon and trash every movie he does. His better movies, like “Coming to America” and “Beverly Hills Cop,” were a long time ago. His work in the “Nutty Professor” movies is good, but even those were several years ago.
Not every movie can be serious and important, and this one is a million miles from either. But delivering a smile is important.
“Daddy Day Care” earns a low passing score.
Mike Parnell is pastor of Burgaw Baptist Church in Burgaw, N.C.
MPAA Rating: PG for language
Director: Steve Carr
Writer: Geoff Rodkey
Cast: Charlie Hinton: Eddie Murphy; Phil: Jeff Garlin; Miss Harridan: Angelica Huston; Marvin: Steve Zahn; Ben Hinton: Khamani Griffin; Kim Hinton: Regina King.