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When advertising executive Charlie (Eddie Murphy) and his colleague Phil (Jeff Garlin) are fired from their jobs, they learn first hand the problems of finding good child care. After a couple of unemployed weeks, Charlie and Phil open a day-care centre at home, and learn the hard way that looking after four years olds is a pretty tough job. But obstacles head their way, when Mrs Harridan (Anjelica Huston) who runs the expensive and snobbish Chapman Academy, realises that if Daddy Day Care succeeds, it is at the risk of her own establishment.

Review by Louise Keller:
The first thing to note about this unashamedly commercial Hollywood fantasy about role reversal, is that Eddie Murphy is not the star. Unlike Doctor Dolittle, in which Murphy maintained centre stage despite being upstaged by the bevy of cute animals. As far as I’m concerned, Steve Zahn is the saving grace of Daddy Day Care, bringing with him a real child-like honesty that is both funny and touching. He manages to keep our attention, even when surrounded by a gaggle of scene-stealing cute-as-a-button kids, who naturally cut through the schmaltz. Zahn is the only adult who plays a ‘real’ character, and his Marvin is a sweet, but slow big kid who finds his milieu for the first time - amongst the kids.

Eddie Murphy has already shown us that he can talk convincingly to the animals, and yes of course, he is great with kids. The very best scenes are those involving one-to-one interaction with the children, and Khamani Griffin, who plays Charlie’s four year-old son (and has the face of an angel), has no difficulty in making our hearts melt absolutely. But the story concept is funnier than the execution: after all, trying to maintain what is essentially a one-joke idea is quite a challenge. Needless to say, life is portrayed rather simplistically, with the men playing the roles of idiots who are totally inept at the simplest of tasks such as changing diapers and even relating to their child. While the moral of the story may be hammered home with a sledge-hammer, it does make a good point in its exploration of the bond between a child and his father.

Angelica Huston makes a perfect Miss Harridan (the Daddy Day Care version of Annie’s Miss Hannigan), although the script never really offers her enough to sink her teeth into. But there are some delightful ideas and I like the idea of giving mission statements to four year olds: in case you are wondering, they eat ‘em, rip ‘em and throw the papers around the room with great enthusiasm. And in an accelerated learning curve, Charlie and Phil learn that although introducing a sugar-filled hyperactive heaven may be tempting, the after-math is a scene of mass destruction – namely prompting an upsurge of uncontrollable activity climbing up drapes, swallowing bubble-blowing liquids and creating sheer chaos on a major scale. Daddy Day Care is lightweight and frivolous entertainment that offers a few bonuses – namely an ensemble of the very cutest of cute four year olds plus Steve Zahn, who delivers the heart of the film.

As would be expected, the DVD special features highlight the kids – and what scene stealers they are. The bloopers reel comprises some gems, the best ones showcasing their spontaneity. ‘What’s so funny,’ screams Khamani Griffin at the end of one of the takes. There are four short featurettes – all of them with an accent on the kids. ‘Good Morning Eddie Murphy’ which begins with irresistible clips featuring the kids, who ask questions like ‘What’s it like working with Eddie Murphy?’ Producer John Davis talks about the chemistry between Murphy and his onscreen son, and the humour which extends beyond the script. ‘On the set you have to negotiate with the kids all the time,’ says Murphy. It’s interesting to hear these five year olds talk about a specific line of dialogue and then we see the actual scene.

Early Bloomer is a welcome addition. It’s a delightful animated short featuring a school of colourful fish who frolic underwater together in the wonderland on the ocean floor. Highlight is their version of the Can-Can – a treat for all. There are also some interactive games which can be played on DVD Rom.

Published December 4, 2003

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CAST: Eddie Murphy, Jeff Garlion, Steve Zahn, Regina King, Anjelica Huston, Susan Santiago, Leila Arcieri, Lacey Chabert

DIRECTOR: Steve Carr

SCRIPT: Geoff Rodkey

RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes

PRESENTATION: Widescreen (1.85: 1/16:9 enhanced)

SPECIAL FEATURES: Animated short film ‘Early Bloomers’; blooper reel; four behind-the scenes featurettes; kid card match up interactive games; movie trailer; bonus trailers;

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Col TriStar Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: December 3, 2003

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