Daddy Day Care

“Daddy Day Care,” Eddie Murphy’s latest comedy, reminded me of the catty exchange between Frank-N-Furter and Janet Weiss in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” when the doctor asks the ingĂ©nue what she thinks about his creation, a golden Adonis. “I don’t like a man with too many muscles,” Janet sheepishly admits, to which Frank harshly replies, “I didn’t make him for you!”

Indeed, anyone over 10 years of age looking for Murphy to stretch his adult comic muscle in “Daddy Day Care” need not apply. As I sat in a theater packed with mostly children and their moms, I knew that “Daddy Day Care” had found its target audience. Who better to appreciate a live action rug rat movie than, well, rug rats.

“Daddy Day Care” features Murphy and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” co-star Jeff Garlin as two marketing professionals who find themselves unemployed after their latest campaign bombs. Charlie’s (Murphy) wife proves to be their financial safety net, returning to the workforce while Charlie stays at home and takes care of their son Ben (Khamani Griffin).

When money, or lack of it, becomes an issue, Charlie and Phil (Garlin) decide to open their own day care center, hoping to compete with the expensive Chapman Academy, presided over by Miss Harridan (Anjelica Huston), a by-the-book professional who doesn’t like the idea of two amateurs invading her territory.

After recruiting former co-worker Marvin (Steve Zahn) to join their endeavor, Charlie and Phil open “Daddy Day Care,” and quickly realize that there’s more to the gig than any of them ever imagined. Not only must they contend with Harridan, they must also bring their center up to code, all the while trying to deal with their ever-growing clientele. Written with rudimentary efficiency by Geoff Rodkey, “Daddy Cay Care” cruises along like one of those gasoline-powered cars on a track at Disneyland: it goes exactly where you expect it to go.

Kids will love the infantile humor, but most adults will react as if they have Attention Deficit Disorder, wondering how 90 minutes can seem like a lifetime. Director Steve Carr, who managed to create a nice balance of heart and humor in Murphy’s “Dr. Dolittle 2,” aims most of “Daddy Day Care’s” jokes at crotch level, and that’s not a compliment.

Of course Rodkey and Carr attempt to make amends by fabricating a convenient meeting of the minds, that revelatory moment where adults and children learn to respect each other and get along, but it comes too late in the game to make a difference.

It’s easy to see why Murphy agreed to do “Daddy Day Care.” Maybe he thought he could make the material his own, but forgets that when dealing with kids, you’re at their mercy. Huston is appropriately steely as Miss Harridan, but like most of the cast, it’s a step down.

Still, kids don’t go to the movies to appreciate the talents of Oscar-winning actresses, and will find her urban “wicked witch” character menacing and funny. They will also find plenty of laughs in the film’s potty humor and physical abuse. Parents forced to sit through “Daddy Day Care” will also laugh, but at the notion of having paid an adult admission for what is obviously a kid flick.


Murphy tackles real life Rug Rats


Eddie Murphy, Jeff Garlin, Steve Zahn, Regina King, Anjelica Huston. Directed by Steve Carr. Rated PG. 93 Minutes.

LARSEN RATING: $5 children, $2 adults

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