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Daddy Day Care

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Daddy Day Care

Starring: Eddie Murphy, Anjelica Huston
Director: Steve Carr
Rated: PG
RunTime: 92 Minutes
Release Date: May 2003
Genre: Comedy

*Also starring: Susan Santiago, Steve Zahn, Michelle Krusiec, Makenzie Vega, Jeff Garlin, Regina King

Review by Harvey Karten
2 stars out of 4

A recent study publicized by the New York Times indicates that mothers should not feel guilty if they go to work and drop their kids off at pre-school.. A good day-care center not only provides equivalence with maternal love: the young ones may actually benefit from the experience. They socialize, they're not facing their mothers' wrath 24-7, and since children just wanna have fun, they may actually enjoy being away from home. What makes a good day-care center? Should 3-year-olds be preparing for their S.A.T's as some yuppie parents desire? Should they be treated as small adults--or as children? Steve Carr's "Daddy Day-Care" offers the audience a debate, if you will, pointing out the elusive charms of a tough, academic-based institution against the counterpoint of a fun place. Guess who comes out on top?

When Charlie (Eddie Murphy) loses his affluent work as an ad-maker for vegetable-based cereal when a whole division shuts down, he is forced to allow his lawyer wife (Regina King) to wear the pants. Becoming bored with staying at home with his adorable three-year-old, Ben (Khamani Griffin), he gets together with a fellow downsizee, Phil (Jeff Garlin), opening up a day-care center in the neighborhood. They hope to catch those parents who cannot afford the uptight school run by a Nurse Ratched-like headmistress, Miss Haridan (Anjelica Huston). With no experience in the business save for having his own child, Charlie's efforts are heading south, as his charges run around his house chaotically. Once Charlie stops treating his clients as little adults, e.g. by reading them a manifesto as though they were on the board of directors of Enron Corporation, and relates to them on their own terms with the help of Star Trek fan Marvin (Steve Zahn), the children flourish. Fearing the brisk competition, Miss Haridan takes aggressive action to put Charlie and Phil and Marvin out of business.

When Roger Ebert downsized the movie, holding that the chaos wrought by Daddy Day-Care is appalling especially when compared to what he considers the good school run by Haridan, he misses a point. Sure, there was anarchy in the beginning, and what's more Charlie is brave to use his own home at first to house the youngsters. But later, as the children shape up one learning to read without the Haridan pressure, one willing to take off his Flash costume for the first time in months, and his own son Ben finally making friends Charlie proves that his method is the one that works, affording fun for the kiddies and developmental progress as well.

There's nothing wholly original in the predictable plot, which bears a sugary ending, but Murphy stages a comeback from his disastrous "The Adventures of Pluto Nash" and there are enough jokes (albeit too many potty gags) to transcend any dependence on childhood adorability to work the audience.

Copyright 2003 Harvey Karten

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