When it’s your job to promote breakfast cereal, you know which varieties are the sweet accounts. Marshmallow Swirls. Frosted Honey Smacks. Anything involving chocolate. If those accounts are the Promised Land, then Charlie Hinton and his co-worker, Phil, are still wandering around in the desert. They’re marketing Veggie-Os, a wholesome if not exactly tasty blend of your not-so-favorite vegetables transformed into a crunchy breakfast, um, delicacy. Oh, and they’re marketing it to kids. It almost goes without saying that Charlie and Phil aren’t doing too well. At least that’s what they’re told when they’re ruthlessly and efficiently downsized.
Losing his job is a particularly difficult problem for Charlie since he and his wife, Kim, have just enrolled their son, Ben, in the posh Chapman Academy. Dubbed the Princeton of preschools, its uniformed four-year-olds practice T’ai Chi, enroll in SAT prep classes and learn Freudian interpretations of Goldilocks. But without Charlie’s income the Hinton clan doesn’t have a chance of affording such an educational extravagance. And with Kim the family’s sole bread-winner, Charlie’s suddenly finds himself Mr. Mom. Then inspiration strikes. Plenty of parents can’t afford to send their kids to Chapman’s hallowed halls. What if he and Phil were to start their own affordable day-care center? And so, “Daddy Day Care”—in all its chaotic, clueless and oh-so-loud glory—is born.
positive elements: The main message of Daddy Day Care is that kids shouldn’t be forced to behave like miniature adults, a wholesome point in today’s accelerated world. With its crested blazers and highly regimented scheduling, the stuffy Chapman Academy comes across more like Oxford than a preschool. Contrasting that is Daddy Day Care. After its two initially naive CEOs get their acts together, it provides a fun atmosphere that’s dedicated to improving kids in a healthy manner. A bright little girl learns to read. A tiny tyrant transforms into an über-polite gentleman. And Ben goes from being afraid to play with other kids to having a whole bevy of friends. “Sure, kids need to mature,” the film seems to say, “but there’s no reason why they should stop being kids while they still are.”
The tenderness of vigorous father/son relationships are also cherished. Charlie and Ben spend tons of time together, engage in numerous bonding rituals (bedtime stories, family hugs, family games) and often proclaim their love for one another. Phil, meanwhile, overcomes some of his antipathy toward the grimier aspects of parenting (diaper changing) and becomes more involved in his son’s life.
Other positive elements include the truths that not all authority figures are spoilsports, parents can always find room for improvement, success requires perseverance and professional status can’t compare to the rewards of being a good parent.
sexual content: When Charlie and Phil try to soothe neighbors’ anxieties about men running a day-care center by saying they’re “two committed parents,” it’s mistakenly assumed they are homosexual. Phil and Charlie’s former co-worker, Marvin, is starstruck by an attractive single mother. When she asks him out, he—thinking she wants him to baby-sit—replies, “Dinner, bath, bed, the works?” A few female characters wear tight outfits.
violent content: During a focus group for Veggie-Os, angry kids throw bowls of the noxious cereal and pummel workers dressed in carrot and broccoli suits. Phil gets knocked down by a child. While shopping, Charlie sees a box of chocolate cereal one of his co-workers marketed and viciously stomps on it. At a karate dojo, a tyke kicks Phil in the crotch. Later, Phil accidentally staples his hand while putting up flyers. Charlie accidentally walks Ben into a closed door. One particularly nasty kid kicks Charlie in the shins multiple times. The first few days at Daddy Day Care end in absolute chaos as children tear pillows, jump on the furniture, drink concentrated bubble solution and run headlong into walls. Charlie and Phil crush a table while wrestling in the carrot and broccoli suits. Phil and Marvin are stung when they try to knock down a beehive. Jealous over the success of Daddy Day Care, the headmistress of Chapman Academy sabotages a fund-raising fair by loosing petting zoo animals and dumping cockroaches in the food at concession stands. A marketing executive says that the only way kids will get adults to buy them sugary cereal is if they “bang their little heads on the floor until blood comes out of their ears.” Phil falls off a jungle gym and lands on top of an unwitting father.
crude or profane language: Daddy Day Care is shockingly clean considering a man named Eddie Murphy stars in it. There’s one use of the word “h—” and about half-a-dozen misuses of God’s name. The most objectionable moment comes when an angry Charlie says at dinner he wants his boss to take a “flying …” (his wife cuts him off before he can finish the phrase). One of Charlie’s co-workers denigrates his marketing project by dubbing it “Veggie-blows.” Other putdowns and crudities include “butthead,” “suck,” “fart,” “loser” and “bubble-headed idiot.”
drug and alcohol content: While discussing ways to calm the children at Daddy Day Care, Phil tells Charlie they should get Ritalin and leashes.
other negative elements: Much of Daddy Day Care’s humor centers around bodily functions. The opening scene has Ben urinating offscreen. A flashback details a failed attempt by Phil to change his son’s diaper while at an expensive restaurant. Later, the very flatulent child uses Charlie’s restroom and misses the toilet (audiences only see Charlie’s horrified expression as he peeks in). Kids lovingly describe how much their pets “poop.” Marvin credits the liberal tome Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care for giving him insight into children. While at a park, Phil has to take a dead mouse away from his boy while a mother urges her child not to play with cat excrement.
conclusion: Daddy Day Care is quite possibly the cleanest movie Eddie Murphy has ever made. Dr. Dolittle 2 was a step in the right direction, but it suffered from a moderate helping of profanity, one of Murphy’s infamous trademarks. Day Care doesn’t achieve perfection in the language department either, but it’s markedly better. It also drives home a number of worthwhile points. The actions of the dynamic (and very male) day-care duo provide a pep talk for hands-off dads everywhere. Charlie discovers that caring for kids can be infinitely more satisfying than a high-power career. Children will see their onscreen peers learning to behave, respect their elders and make friends.Of course, parents are right to still be wary of enrolling their little ones in Daddy Day Care, as it includes scatological jokes and a fair amount of easily imitatable violence.