Reel Opinions

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Daddy Day Camp

If Rush Hour 3 is a textbook example of a cash-in sequel where everyone is just back for a paycheck, then Daddy Day Camp is a textbook example of a sequel where the studio couldn't pay the original actors enough to star in it. This isn't just a bad movie, this is an inhumanly bad movie that should be used only for purposes of torture and/or blackmail. Harsh words? Yes, but perhaps if you saw this movie you would understand. This is a blemish to any cinema that shows it, the actors forced to act in it, and the crew that put it together. If anyone thought they were making a successful family film at any point in the making of Daddy Day Camp, I'd like to know what they were smoking.

In this weary sequel to 2003's modest hit, Daddy Day Care, Cuba Gooding Jr has the "honor" of stepping into Eddie Murphy's shoes as Charlie Hinton. It's been a couple years since he set up his home-run day care business with best friend Phil (Paul Rae), and while business is still booming, his mind is on his now seven-year-old son Ben (Spencir Bridges) being anxious to go to summer camp. Charlie never had a positive experience when he was a child at camp, and is determined not to let his son share the same emotional scars that he has. He decides to expand the Daddy Day Care name and buys a run down summer camp called Camp Driftwood, hoping that Phil and him can turn it into a success. He quickly finds that the Camp itself is beyond repair, the children are unruly, and the popular rival camp next door is run by his old childhood nemesis, Lance Warner (Lochlyn Munro), who caused much of Charlie's anxieties when he was younger. With Lance looking to tear Driftwood down and expand his own property, Charlie becomes determined to save his business venture by any means possible, and will have to rely on help from his military Colonel father (Richard Gant), who he has always had a strained relationship with.

Less than a week after Daddy Day Camp was released, Sony Entertainment tried to put a positive spin on its meager opening weekend box office earnings by stating that the film was originally intended to be a straight to DVD release, cost practically nothing to make, and was only given a theatrical release because someone at the studio thought they could make a quick buck off of it during the dog days of August. It's painfully obvious that this film was a total rush job just by looking at the film. Not only has nobody from the cast of the original film returned, but almost no one behind the scenes, save for one of the writers, worked on the first movie as well. This wouldn't be so bad if the new cast was talented, but everyone seems to have no idea what they're supposed to be doing. This movie's idea of humor is to have Cuba Gooding Jr mugging and making goofy faces for the camera while kids run around him, screaming. Multiply that scene by about 50, and you have the entire 90 minutes of this movie. Were it not for watching Who's Your Caddy just weeks ago, I would say that this is the most depressing experience I've had at the movies this year. In fact, the two movies have something in common, in that they both feature an actress named Tamala Jones, who played the main love interest in Caddy and plays Charlie's wife in this movie. My advice to Miss Jones would be to fire your agent as quickly as possible, or start actually reading the scripts before you agree to do them.

Former 80s child star, Fred Savage, directs the film. You would think that his experience with growing up in the Hollywood system would have given him plenty of experience on how to handle kids. If Daddy Day Camp is any indication, he doesn't remember much of the lessons he learned while acting on The Wonder Years, which was one of the more realistic portrayals of childhood ever captured on television at the time. The kids in this movie are a mess of personality-deprived hellions who have maybe one signature character trait, and that's it. There's a nerdy kid addicted to video games who wants to talk to the cute girl in the camp, there's a bully kid who is actually a softie at heart, and there's a kid who always throws up. (This being a PG-rated family comedy for kids, we get a lovely slow motion shot of him shooting out projectile vomit in the face of the villain late in the film.) The kids are stock types that hack writers have relied on before even the days of Ernest Goes to Camp. The movie is not interested in giving the kids a single honest emotion, feeling, or anything remotely interesting to say. They exist simply to scream and cause chaos until it's time for the standard climax centered around a series of games where the two rival camps compete against each other. Only then do the kids learn to work together, beat the evil team by any means possible (sometimes even by cheating), and send the kids in the audience watching the movie home with the message that winning is all that matters. And if you can make your enemy look like a jackass, that's even better. What a great moral to pass onto our youth.
If there was a single redeeming performance, moment, or even an instant found within this movie, I would be talking about it right here. As much as I try to strain my brain, I can't think of one single bright spot. This is the most cynical, trashy, and just plain wrong excuses for childrens entertainment that I can think of. Please don't think I'm only trashing this movie because I'm an adult, and this movie wasn't made for me. The children in my audience weren't laughing either. Daddy Day Camp is a horrible, horrible movie and everyone involved in the making of it should think long and hard about what they've done. If this was a movie that could appeal to children, I'd at least give it that. This movie appeals to nobody. Way to go, guys.



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