In this innocuous PG comedy Charlie (Eddie Murphy) and his business partner Phil (Jeff Garlin) lose their jobs at an advertising company after their attempts to market a vile tasting vegetable cereal goes bust. Charlie's family could probably live comfortably on one income since his wife Kim (Regina King) is an attorney but they have become accustomed to a higher quality of living with their prized Mercedes-Benz in the driveway and their 4-year-old son Ben (Khamani Griffin) enrolled in the exclusive Chapman Academy. When Charlie and Kim contemplate enrolling Ben in a more affordable school they find the alternatives deplorable. Without a job and in desperate need of day care for Ben Charlie comes up with the idea of running a day care service out of their home. With a little help from his pal Phil Daddy Day Care gets underway. But when the Chapman Academy starts to lose students to this new rival taskmistress Mrs. Harridan (Anjelica Huston) does everything in her power to run Daddy Day Care out of business no matter how unethical.
This movie is a cakewalk for Murphy who in his later years has turned to somewhat softer comedy compared to his '80s heyday with 48 HRS Trading Places and Eddie Murphy Raw yet this type of comedy suits him just as well. But while it is nice to see the 42-year-old comedian playing more mature personas on screen Daddy Day Care does not give Murphy enough witty material for him to really sink his teeth into. In The Nutty Professor for example Murphy donned a fat suit and layers of special-effects makeup and brought to life a character that was hilarious yet incredibly endearing. Here Murphy's Charlie is a much simpler character and the actor gives most of the film's laughs to cast members under four feet tall. Out of the multitude of children who star in the film Griffin who plays Charlie's son Ben definitely outshines his little comrades. Sure he's over-the-top cute but this little boy is also pretty sharp. As Murphy's sidekick Garlin provides predictable slapstick humor but Steve Zahn who plays Marvin a Star Trek aficionado who comes on board to help run the day care center easily delivers some of the film's funniest moments.
Directed by Steve Carr Daddy Day Care is a guiltless straightforward comedy bound to make any parent chuckle a light and fluffy flick that nevertheless fails to take Murphy's comedic talent out of first gear. But while Murphy does not deliver the more vulgar laughs moviegoers have come to expect of him his character Charlie at least does not fall into the conventional stereotype of the diaper-phobic father; he may not be perfect but he is an affectionate parent who is genuinely involved in his son's life. And although scribe Geoff Rodkey's screenplay is peppered with predictable potty training humor and the obligatory kick-in-the-groin scene it wedges in a decent amount of funny moments as well. Some of the best scenes revolve around the kids. Take the boy that no one can understand--including his mother--until Marvin discovers that the 4-year-old is actually speaking Klingonese. (Turns out Marvin learned quite a bit from Dr. Spock's book on childcare which he was surprised to find out was not about Star Trek.) Carr's Daddy Day Care is not as clever his last pic Dr. Dolittle 2 and it's much tamer than his Next Friday but it is cute and harmless entertainment.