Charlie (Murphy) and Phil (Jeff Garlin) develop and sell cereal for a living, but are fired, and deservedly so, when their attempt to market "Veggie-O's" fails. Months pass with neither
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Eddie Murphy and his young, impressionable friends have fun making another flop.
able to secure gainful employment and maintain the high-rolling breakfast-magnate lifestyle to which they have grown accustomed. Sadly, their preschoolers' private education is first on the chopping block, presenting the pair with a potential fate far worse than poverty: emasculation. What's that? The women go off to work in the morning and the men stay home with their children? Has the universe gone topsy-turvy? Before the utter incongruity of it all can disengage the planet from its orbit and send us all flying into the sun, Charlie and Phil hatch a plan, one that will make everything right again, reaffirm the appropriate gender roles, and keep them off Public Assistance. It's a plan So Crazy It Just Might Work.

Of course, it doesn't at first. When they open an at-home, presumably unlicensed daycare center, the children who attend act like the preschooler-as-rabid-gibbon archetype that keeps the vasectomy business afloat: They hit, scream, and break things and each other, and to top it off, have no control over their bodily functions. But instead of being caught on Nanny Cam throttling one of the beasties, Charlie and Phil are able to draw from a seemingly inexhaustible well of patience and understanding and soon have their youthful charges eating out of their hands. The taskmistress of the only other daycare center in town not under investigation by the feds, the very exclusive Chapman Academy, takes exception to this unexpected source of competition and decides to wage war. "I can't compete with fun," froths Anjelica Huston's Miss Harridan, a caricature of bitchiness who doesn't so much speak as spit venom, and doesn't so much walk as propel herself forward by the momentum of her dangerously waggling ass.

From start to finish, every unfunny gag is deadeningly familiar from its prior existence in dozens of other films with similar "underdogs who care versus the heartless but well-financed" themes, or carbon-copied "men tending to kids with wacky results" premises. And woe

Dir. Steve Carr; writ. Geoff Rodkey; feat. Eddie Murphy, Jeff Garlin, Anjelica Huston (PG)
onto the overweight that involve themselves in these sorts of lower-than-lowbrow projects. For example, it's almost as if a book of Mad-Libs were used to help write the scenes featuring the hefty Jeff Garlin ("Here, the fat guy is hit in the groin with a `noun`"). Coming off a number of recent failures aimed at adults (Pluto Nash, I Spy, Showtime), we can assume that Murphy insists on blunting his once-pointed schtick for the sake of the kiddie set because this kind of thing works time and time again, because sass-talking critters and nutty fat-suits have made success in "family" films a sure thing for him. With its jejune mindset, stale attempts at humor, and lobotomization of Murphy's once dangerous mind, Daddy Day Care goes down like a big bowl of "Veggie-O's." •

More by Joe Weiss



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