How bad does a sequel to an Eddie Murphy movie have to be before Murphy declines to appear in it? If this follow-up to 2003’s “Daddy Day Care” is any indication, the answer is: very.
Cuba Gooding, Jr., takes over as Charlie Hinton, who, along with buddy Phil Ryerson (Paul Rae, stepping into Jeff Garlin’s ample shoes), has made an unlikely success with a day-care business after the two guys lost their jobs. In this second installment—also penned by Geoff Rodkey, who in the intervening years wrote such gems as “RV” and “The Shaggy Dog” (and this time with input from J. David Stem and David N. Weiss, whose resume includes Ice Cube’s dreadful John Hughes ripoff “Are We There Yet?”)—Charlie and Phil decide to enroll their boys in their old summer Camp Driftwood, only to find the place is a wreck, overshadowed by its nearby old rival, the ritzy Camp Canola. On a whim Charlie decides to invest in Driftwood and restore it to its former glory, not only for his son’s sake but to best Camp Canola’s smarmy owner, Lance Warner (Lochlyn Munro), who just happens to be the fellow who humiliated him during the inter-camp “Olympics” years before.
Of course, the rickety camp quickly becomes a white elephant, siphoning off money and losing enrollees due to understandable safety concerns on the part of the parents. And Charlie’s decision to mortgage his own house to keep it going threatens to be a disaster for him and supportive wife Kim (Tamala Jones, replacing Regina King). Things get so desperate that Charlie—whose only additional staff member is the eager but inept Dale (Joshua McLeran, effectively taking over for Steve Zahn)—agrees to call in his estranged dad Buck (Richard Gant), a retired Marine colonel, to help; and so in the process of preparing the remaining tykes for another session of those Olympics that’s been forced on him, Charlie bonds not only with his son Ben (Spencir Bridges) but his dad, too.
“Daddy Day Camp” plays like one of those direct-to-DVD (or direct to cable) sequels of kiddie movies that have proliferated in recent years—the ones in which the members of the original cast are mysteriously AWOL. It’s even directed by someone who’s heretofore specialized in doing episodes of programs on family-friendly networks—Fred Savage, the former child star (“The Wonder Years,” “The Princess Bride”), here making his feature debut behind the camera. The action is desperately rambunctious but nonetheless limp (with kids shown indulging heedlessly in some activities—like riding all-terrain bikes and shooting arrows—that are actually rather dangerous) and the performances scaled to the small screen (where mugging like Gooding’s and Munro’s is less irritating due to the shrunken size and the high dosage of schmaltz more acceptable). It’s the sort of picture that might keep a bunch of rowdy eight-year olds reasonably amused on the tube in the family room, but seems woefully out of place in a theatre auditorium, where anybody older than that will probably be squirming in discomfort long before the big, but tepid Olympics finale.
It looks like a television product, too, with a tacky physical production and over-bright cinematography (courtesy of Geno Salvatori).
Memo to Cuba: if you’re offered the lead in a sequel to Murphy’s “Pluto Nash,” say no.