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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
"They're selling fun! I can't compete with fun."
DVD ReviewThe transformation of Eddie Murphy is complete. The dangerous, edgy, profane comedian of Saturday Night Live is long gone—most youngsters now will know him first as the voice of the donkey in Shrek, if not as Dr. Dolittle. Daddy Day Care ratifies his status as a family-friendly leading man; it's not the greatest movie ever made, but I can tell you that, as a parent, on a rainy weekend afternoon, it was a godsend. (Full disclosure: This is my son's all-time favorite movie.)
Murphy plays Charlie, an advertising exec trying to market nasty breakfast cereal—the competition gets the chocolate puffs, but he and his partner, Phil (Jeff Garlin), get saddled with Veggie-Os. Yes, if the kids didn't want to eat their broccoli with dinner, they're sure to want it for breakfast! Surprise—the cereal tanks, Charlie and Phil get fired, and, coincidentally enough, Charlie's wife is going back to work as an attorney.
Which of course creates the perfect opening for the startup of the title. Charlie and Phil open a day care center in Charlie's house; it's a way to look after their own kids, as well as bringing in some cold hard cash, and getting in touch with their feminine sides. You could probably phone in every point of the plot merely from looking at the poster—things start out disastrously, but soon Charlie and Phil become better dads, better men, better people, and everybody learns a li'l something about life.
So yeah, it's fundamentally saccharine and shopworn. But it is slick and professional, with the story beats in all the right places, and a bushel of little kids, and no shortage of doody jokes. (Can there ever be enough doody jokes?) The kids are bearable, and occasionally even endearing, which puts them head and shoulders above most child actors I've seen. And Murphy is well supported—Garlin is game for all kinds of physical humor, and he's the butt of many, many jokes: stung by bees, smacked in the head with a lamp, lipstick and rouge applied to him while he grabs a nap. (Believe me, to pre-schoolers, this is Noel Coward.) Anjelica Huston is appropriately cartoony as the aptly named Ms. Harridan, who runs Chapman Academy, the Princeton of pre-schools and the local competition. (Not nearly as strong is Lacey Chabert, trying to piece a career together after Party of Five, as Harridan's Smithers.) Also especially good is Steve Zahn as the Star Trek geek who finds his calling looking after the kids.
This may also be a way to introduce your kids to the music of your own childhood—I have Eddie Murphy to thank for the Jackson Five revival in my own house. That's probably better than having them look for other films with the same cast members—Daddy Day Care takes care of business, but you surely don't want to use it as a way to introduce your kids to 48 HRS., or Curb Your Enthusiasm, or Prizzi's Honor.
Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B-
Image Transfer Review: Colors are strong, brassy and saturated, and the transfer is a clean one. The widescreen is the way to go, of course, but if you can't take the little black bars, a pan-and-scan version is offered, too.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: A slick audio transfer, with nice balance. I especially enjoyed hearing the little kids do their thing in French, so click on over if you get bored.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
6 Other Trailer(s) featuring Annie, Matilda, Mona Lisa Smile, Peter Pan, Radio, The Master of Disguise
The kids in the cast of the film are milked, big time, in a quartet of featurettes. In Good Morning, Eddie Murphy (03m:12s), the kids interview one another; we also hear from Murphy, director Steve Carr, and John Davis, one of the film's producers. The kids took to calling the leading man by his full name, hence the featurette's title—"Hi, Eddie Murphy! Where's Eddie Murphy? I really like Eddie Murphy!" Next, it's time to Meet the Kids of Daddy Day Care (06m:17s), full of fun facts about them—favorite hobbies, sports, cartoons. In Quiet on the Set (05m:47s), they take their craft very seriously, but their adult colleagues talk about the problems about working with those who can only be on set six hours a day, and require frequent naps. What Did That Kid Say? (03m:20s) is little more than scraps from interviews for the other featurettes.
The Blooper Reel (02m:28s) is just a replay of the closing credits; and three games (Name the Noise Maker, Kid Card Match Up, Odd One Out), work on basic preschools skills, and are wisely included for the frequent play this disc is likely to get.
Extras Grade: C
Final CommentsA safe bit of family entertainment, with enough laughs for old and young alike. Not a great film, but a surefire bet when they've run through all the toys in the house.
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