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The Independent Critic

STARRING
Cuba Gooding, Jr., Paul Rae, Tamala Jones, Lochlyn Munro
DIRECTOR
Fred Savage
SCREENPLAY
Geoff Rodkey, J.David Stern, David N. Weiss
MPAA RATING
Rated PG
RUNNING TIME
93 Mins.
DISTRIBUTED BY
Sony/Destination
 "Daddy Day Camp" Review 
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Did anyone else have this experience?

For weeks, I would visit my local movie theatre and peruse the latest movie posters for up-and-coming films. Quite literally, for WEEKS, the poster for "Dr. Doolittle 3," a sequel to the successful Eddie Murphy film not centered around Murphy's character but that of his daughter taking over the family business.

Then, after weeks of hype, the posters were gone. Shortly thereafter, "Dr. Dolittle 3" suddenly showed up on video.

While it's not unheard of, especially for half-assed sequels and low-budget indies, for a film to go straight-to-video, it is a tad unusual for it to happen after a weeks long "in theatres" marketing campaign.

It ended up being a smart move, for a remarkably underwhelming film that fell far short of its predecessor.

So, all of this begs the question "How the hell did "Daddy Day Camp" end up in theatres?"

Think about the steps that had to occur for this film, which may very well be even worse than my "Man, I love to bash this film" yet appropriately named "Delta Farce."

First, or maybe second or third, studio execs at Revolution Studios or Tristar Pictures had to sit around thinking "Hmmm. Should we invest in this sequel to a surprisingly popular Eddie Murphy/Jeff Garlin/Steve Zahn family film based upon a flimsy idea even though none of these stars are willing to come back?"

"We could always get that guy, you know the guy...hmmmm. What's his name? Cuba Gooding, Jr., the Oscar-winner who makes all those really crappy films. He'll do it. He'll make anything. We can throw in some unknown and, heck, we don't even need that Steve Zahn guy."

Then, there has to be a script..."Geoff Rodkey ("Daddy Day Care," "RV" and "The Shaggy Dog") will let us use the characters again, J. David Stern ("The Rugrats" and "Shrek 2") can help...Oh man, this is gonna be great."

Of course, even the most illustriously envisioned film can fall apart without the right director. "I know who will do it. Oh man, he'll love this film. He's young, he's hip and he's been directing on television so he must know what he's doing...Fred Savage, yeah, that guy from "The Wonder Years." Man, I loved that show."

Then, finally, a distributor must be found and this company's braintrusts sit around at their weekly Pow-Wow making the big decision...Does "Daddy Day Camp" get released? Does it go straight-to-video? Should it get a wide release?

AND, somehow, in all of these steps...EVERYONE SAID "YES!"

Now, I see quite a few under-the-radar indie films throughout the year, most of which will never see the light of day in wide release and, sadly, a few that will never even get a major video distribution deal.

I'll say it again "How the hell did "Daddy Day Camp" end up in theatres?"

In a week that practically defines Hollywood's excessive greediness and laziness, "Daddy Day Camp" is the week's poster child. "Daddy Day Camp" is an unnecessary, irrelevant, horridly scripted, weakly directed and incredibly badly acted film destined for a lonely shelf-life on home video and a seat of honor at the Razzie Awards.

In "Daddy Day Camp," Gooding plays Charlie and Paul Rae takes over the Jeff Garlin role. The boys are into their fourth year of the successful "Daddy Day Care," and their kids (curiously, instead of two boys their kids are now a boy and a girl) are ready for summer camp. Charlie, of course, has nightmarish memories of his camp experience and has never dealt with the horror of losing the big race...all of this leads us down the remarkably illogical road of the two dads investigating the camp, finding it in disarray and closed down (which doesn't explain even remotely how the two kids got permission slips for the camp) and Camp Director Brian Doyle-Murray basically sitting there doing nothing.

YAWN.

Inevitably, otherwise we wouldn't have a film, the two buy the camp, fix it up and have to compete with (YES! You guessed it!) Charlie's old nemesis (Lochlyn Munro).

The only possible smile you are having at this point is a sympathetic grin thinking of me actually having to sit through this debacle on your behalf.

I appreciate the sympathy.

Among a sea of really horrid performances, "Daddy Day Camp" is one of the worst ever for Gooding. He's in hyperactive, outrageous mugging mode and has left permanently behind him any notion that his Oscar for "Jerry Maguire" was actually deserved.

It's official. We want the Oscar back, Cuba. It has become abundantly clear that you simply lucked into the perfect role for your shameless mugging and histrionic acting style. You weren't acting, I fear, but simply being yourself.

Paul Rae, previously seen as a bit player in what amounts to insignificant cinema (including one of this decade's worst films, "Zodiac Killer") plays second fiddle to an out-of-tune lead but doesn't really distinguish himself as deserving of another chance in a better film.

The supporting cast, Lochlyn Munro and Tamala Jones (as Charlie's wife), are lost in the woefully inept script and Savage's chaotic direction. The child performers, I refuse to use the word actors for what they do here, are mostly wooden, lifeless and methodical...a fact more testifying to Savage's inability to bring this admittedly weak material to life.

It's difficult to fathom the minds that suddenly, after weeks of marketing, shut down "Dr. Dolittle 2" from its wide release while giving a wholehearted thumbs up to this mind-numbingly awful venture. I fear what will happen if, against all odds, this film happens to become a box-office success.

"Daddy Strip Club?"

Shudder.

 
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic
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