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"DADDY DAY CAMP"
(2007) (Cuba Gooding Jr., Paul Rae) (PG)

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QUICK TAKE:
Comedy: Two men try to translate their success of running a daycare facility into doing the same for a summer day camp, all while having to deal with the adult bully who runs a rival, upscale camp and wants to buy theirs for the land.
PLOT:
It's been a few years since friends and coworkers Charlie Hinton (CUBA GOODING JR.) and Phil Ryerson (PAUL RAE) opened their Daddy Day Car facility, overcame various obstacles along the way, and turned their novel business into a success. Now it's time to take their kids to summer day camp, a prospect that doesn't sit well with Charlie due to his own traumatizing experience at such a place back when he was a kid.

Nevertheless, wife Kim (TAMALA JONES) sends him off with their young son, Ben (SPENCIR BRIDGES), and it's not long before they, Phil, and his son, Max (DALLIN BOYCE), arrive at Camp Driftwood. It's a rundown place with no customers, only one staffer, new guy Dale (JOSH McLERRAN), and an owner, Uncle Morty (BRIAN DOYLE-MURRAY), who doesn't seem to care about anything. That is, except that he refuses to sell the place to Lance Warner (LOCHLYN MUNRO) who runs the nearby upscale Camp Canola and wants to raze this one for the future site of a go-cart track.

When Charlie realizes that Lance is his childhood tormentor grown up with a bully son of his own, he decides to buy a partnership in Camp Driftwood, just to keep it out of Lance's hands. He figures he and Phil can apply their Daddy Day Care knowledge to running the camp and turn the business around, but they aren't ready for the chaos brought about by their new charges.

They include brothers Robert (TAD D'AGOSTINO) and Carl (TAGGART HURTUBISE), the latter of whom might be younger than the former, but is always giving him advice about how to attract the pretty Juliette (TELISE GALANIS). Billy (TYGER RAWLINGS) is the resident bully who picks on the likes of anyone smaller than him, including Jack (TALON G. ACKERMAN) who has an easily upset stomach. Then there's the precocious Becca (MOLLY JEPSON), as well as Mullet Head (ZACHARY ALLEN) whose name describes his hairstyle of choice.

Facing a lien on the camp and thus, by extension his own place, Charlie reluctantly asks his father, retired Marine Col. Buck Hinton (RICHARD GANT) for help, but isn't pleased when he learns that his father's controlling and demeaning ways haven't changed. From that point on, and as Lance puts the pressure on Charlie to sell the place, all while constantly belittling him, his family, and his campers, it's up to the ragtag group to formulate their battle plan and fight back.

OUR TAKE: 2 out of 10
The last time we saw Charlie Hinton and Phil Ryerson was a few years back in "Daddy Day Care" when both men, newly unemployed, decided to open a daycare facility in one of their homes. With stiff competition from the ruthless owner of an exclusive academy, the men overcame various obstacles -- the least of which were unruly kids -- to make their business a success.

But they must have gone under government protection of some sort in the intervening years since neither they nor one's wife or child look anything like they once did, and one of their associates, Marvin, has disappeared altogether. No, the government's witness relocation program isn't the plot thrust of "Daddy Day Camp," nor is this the second coming of "Face/Off" where some sort of surgery has been used to change the characters' appearances.

Yet, the fact that Eddie Murphy and Jeff Garlin (as the two partners), Regina King and Khamani Griffin (as one's wife and child), and Steve Zahn (as the wacky partner) are all MIA is the most noticeable thing about this sequel to the 2003 comedy. That is, except for the fact that it pretty much plays out exactly as one would expect (adults exasperated by out of control kids, with a rival and better financed camp only exacerbating things).

Of course, this isn't the first and won't be the last film (or TV show) to have different actors playing the same characters (see the James Bond series or TV's Bewitched for examples). Yet, it may be the first time there's been such a wholesale change-out for a series that's only on its second outing, and wasn't anything particularly spectacular enough the first time around -- at least from an artistic standpoint -- to warrant the need to hold onto the characters or even just part of the title.

Speaking of the latter, a more accurate one for this crotch-aiming, bodily function obsessed "comedy" should have been something along the lines of "Cheaper by the Dozen Does Daddy Day Camp. That's because so much of the plot -- penned by returning scribe Geoff Rodkey and new writers J. David Stem & David N. Weiss -- has been lifted from the lame Steve Martin/Eugene Levy sequel to the first "CBTD" film.

You see, much like Steve and Eugene's characters had it out for each other from a childhood rivalry all the way up to their summer vacation homes (including both their families battling in camp type activities), Charlie's hated camp ever since being humiliated decades ago by a kid named Lance. Now, when taking his own kid to that very same camp, he learns that his childhood adversary (played by Lochlyn Munroe in such an over-the-top fashion that it appears he might blow a gasket at any moment) now runs the rival camp, resulting in kids from both parties battling it out in camp-related activities.

Considering his own "Wonder Years" experience as well as that of helming various projects for the Disney Channel, one would think child actor turned director Fred Savage would have the chops for handling kid-related material. Yet, this is a misfire from step one, and proves to be yet another nail in the acting coffin of Cuba Gooding Jr. whose Oscar win seems like something from another performer's career.

Unable to tap into Murphy's now absent comedic stylings, the actor must have yelled out "Show me the money!" because that's about the only thing that could entice anyone to sign up for such a poorly conceived film. I'm sure younger kids probably won't mind as they laugh at the various antics, but none of it works for anyone else.

That ranges from the various pratfalls to the gross out humor (vomiting seemingly being the favorite) to the presence of Richard Gant as the military man needed to instill order and confidence. He's also there for some intended touchy-feeling, father-son moments between him and Gooding Jr., but that's handled just as awkwardly as the rest of the film.

Now, if we could only get the "Daddy Day" and "Cheaper" cast and filmmakers to visit Camp Crystal Lake and let Jason do his thing, now that might be some worthwhile entertainment, if only for eliminating the possibility of yet another sequel in either franchise. That is, until they bring in new performers to take over the wisely abandoned roles. "Daddy Day Camp" rates as a 2 out of 10.




Reviewed August 4, 2007 / Posted August 8, 2007


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