By Kevin Carr | May 11, 2003

I’m a stay-at-home dad, so of course, the concept of “Daddy Day Care” held a certain appeal for me. After all, my wife and I have looked into the cost of day care, and in addition to losing valuable parent-child time, the cost for a good day care almost cancels out a second job. I couldn’t go back to work if I wanted to – not with two kids.

Twenty years ago Michael Keaton starred as “Mr. Mom,” and in the early 1980s this was a revolutionary concept. This was also the era of “Nine to Five” when women were establishing themselves as equals in the work place. Oddly enough, the “Nine to Five” prophecy has become somewhat of a reality (considering that every office job I have ever had saw me reporting to a woman), but “Mr. Mom” is still the exception rather than the norm.

Still, there are plenty of stay-at-home dads around the country, and groups of them even get together for their own play groups. So, a movie like “Daddy Day Care” should have a built-in audience. Unfortunately, the appeal of the movie doesn’t go much farther than the concept.

Eddie Murphy plays Charlie, a marketing guru at a cereal company. His latest assignment, vegetables served Froot Loops style as Veggie-O’s, is an absolute disaster. He and his office mate (whom I’m still not quite sure what he does) are let go. After several weeks of looking for a new job, Charlie is still out of luck. Even with his wife Kim (Regina King) going to work for a law firm, they can barely make their car payment, let alone pay for the only decent day care facility in town – an ultra-high priced gestapo-esque prep preschool run by Mrs. Harridan (Anjelica Huston).

While watching his kid in the park one day, Charlie gets the bright idea to open his own day care center with Phil (Jeff Garlin), his former office mate. Things are rocky at first, with kids literally tearing apart the house and running around like deranged hippies on a bad acid trip. However, soon this Daddy Day Care becomes a success, eventually stealing business from Mrs. Harridan.

Really there is not much of a plot, if that surprises anyone. About half-way through, I found myself wondering who the bad guy was? After all, Mrs. Harridan is only dragged in now and then to provide some conflict. The really sad part is that Anjelica Huston is better than this. I guess it just goes to show you that even Oscar winners have to pay the rent.

Eddie Murphy, usually a stand out performer in films like “Shrek” and pretty much everything he did before 1990 (excluding “Best Defense,” of course), has trouble rising above the rest of the cast. Jeff Garlin as Phil is remarkably bland and doesn’t really expand past the typical fat guy jokes. Lacy Chabert is pretty much wasted as Mrs. Harridan’s protege with a heart of gold. Steve Zahn is the only golden nugget here, as far as characters go. Sure, he plays the typical Steve Zahn character, but as Marvin the freaky Star Trek fan who relates to kids better than adults, he’s pretty good.

There are several funny parts in the film, mostly concerning the out-of-control kids. And there are father/son moments that touched me. But this isn’t really saying much, considering I found myself getting a little weepy over some scenes in “Village of the Damned.” Hey, parenthood can do that to you.

“Daddy Day Care” should do well for the strict family crowd, but it leaves a lot to be desired for the parents. Kids should find it funny simply for the manic nature of some scenes. But unlike other classic family comedies, like “Home Alone,” “Daddy Day Care” doesn’t give much for adults to find funny past the standard parenting cliches.

Too much of “Daddy Day Care” is just going through the motions. Some scenes are overly schmaltzy or just downright silly, especially in the ending confrontation between Charlie and Mrs. Harridan. Still, if you’ve got kids old enough to see PG films, “Daddy Day Care” is worth the trip. However, I’d wait until it hits the discount theatres or video. This really isn’t another day care expense you can afford.

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