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Daddy Day Camp DVD Review

Daddy Day Camp movie poster Daddy Day Camp

Theatrical Release: August 8, 2007 / Running Time: 89 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: Fred Savage / Writers: Geoff Rodkey, J. David Stern, David N. Weiss

Cast: Cuba Gooding, Jr. (Charlie Hinton), Lochlyn Munro (Lance Warner), Richard Gant (Colonel Buck Hinton), Tamala Jones (Kim Hinton), Paul Rae (Phil), Joshua McLerran (Dale), Spencir Bridges (Ben Hinton), Brian Doyle-Murray (Uncle Morty), Dallin Boyce (Max), Telise Galanis (Juliette), Taggart Hurtubise (Carl), Molly Jepson (Becca), Tad D'Agostino (Robert), Tyler Rawlings (Billy), Talon Ackerman (Jack), Zachary Allen (Mullet Head), Sean Patrick Flaherty (Bobby J), Richard J. Clifford (Thumson), Frank Gerrish (Plumber), Paul Kiernan (Bill), JJ Neward (Syl), Christy Summerhays (Margo)

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If you were asked a year ago to make a list of ten family films released this decade that you'd want a sequel to, I'm almost positive Daddy Day Care wouldn't be on it. In fact, you could expand the list to twenty or thirty and while you might have to rack your brain for entries, you'd probably still overlook that kid-friendly 2003 Eddie Murphy comedy.

Alas, there's this hip saying that "money talks." Day Care earned over $100 million in North America and an additional $60 M overseas. If Sony was willing to make a follow-up to the universally panned Baby Geniuses (worldwide gross: $36 million), one can't really be surprised the studio would want to turn Daddy from a hit into a franchise.
They succeeded in that Daddy Day Camp is a sequel and one which alphabetically is guaranteed to be its predecessor's shelf neighbor for a very long time to come. It arrived in theaters last summer, the same season that gave us more of Spider-Man, Shrek, and the Pirates of the Caribbean. Even with the art of sequels in full bloom, the approach taken here can easily be labeled a bit unexpected.

Eddie Murphy, the veteran funnyman who has done half a filmography's worth of sequels (including such clunkers as Dr. Doolittle 2 and Nutty Professor II: The Klumps), opted not to return. In his place, the producers got Cuba Gooding, Jr., an actor who won an Oscar at age 29 (for Jerry Maguire) but has since had difficulty picking a project that both moviegoers and critics have really cared for. The same thought process -- "Can we get a cheaper version of [actor name here]?" -- appears to have shaped the rest of the casting. For the "Jeff Garlin type", they chose Paul Rae (of Air Buddies fame) to play the portly sidekick. Replacing Regina King as the young wife is full-time TV guest star Tamala Jones. Serving as the obligatory kid is Spencir Bridges (son of "Diff'rent Strokes" star Todd).

The poor man's Eddie Murphy (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) and the broke man's John Goodman (Paul Rae) are surprised to see enrollment in their Daddy Day Camp has dropped to nine. The children of Camp Driftwood look to Charlie's Marine father for guidance.

The movie follows Charlie Hinton (Gooding) and his pal Phil (Rae) as they try to provide their respective 7-year-old sons with a fun summer camp in the spirit of their successful day care center. Of course, there are forces against them, chiefly their lack of experience and the fact that their fondly-remembered Camp Driftwood has grown rundown and barren while its nearest neighbor, Camp Canola, has flourished into an amenities-filled child's fantasy under the leadership of the oddly familiar Lance Warner (Lochlyn Munro).

In the absence of any greater authority, Charlie, Phil, and the geeky Dale (Josh McLerran) try to restore Driftwood to its former greatness. Needless to say, a variety of wacky antics ensue for the young campers who number just nine after a day of disasters. Lance and Canola campers pose opposition and seek an inter-camp competition. The mishaps at Driftwood pose financial uncertainty for the Hintons, who have multiple home mortgages and much else at risk. And Charlie himself has issues, mostly concerning his father (Richard Gant), a Marine colonel who's reluctantly called to help the camp.

Daddy Day Camp seems commonplace in every way. I haven't seen the movie it specifically follows, but I have seen a fair share of those which it's modeled after. I'd have to say that Camp pales in comparison to just about every one, even those which are aided by nostalgia. It just doesn't have much going for it. As a comedy, laughs are few. For a kid-oriented flick, fun is kept surprisingly low. As a piece of storytelling, it falters with an unappealing blend of broad gags and forced sentimentality. How is it that Munro's villain is more likable and interesting than Gooding's bland protagonist?

Camp Canola's head (Lochlyn Munro) and his young, coordinated charge (Sean Patrick Flaherty) try their intimidation tactics in lavender camouflage. Mullet Head (Zachery Allen), Becca (Molly Jepson), and Billy (Tyger Rawlings) outnumber in an attempt to out-arm-wrestle Colonel Hinton (Richard Gant).

The Driftwood campers fall into a variety of childhood archetypes, including the mulleted backwoods boy, the shy boy with a love interest, and the barfer. Every one of them can easily be classified as obnoxious, uninteresting, and poorly used. What can you expect, though, from a film so enamored with bodily functions as to glamorously depict many numerous times? For relying so heavily on farts and vomit, the film seems surprisingly short on confidence, thus it calls for a score by Jim Dooley to be ubiquitous and more emphatic than any of the characters it accompanies. There's hardly a quiet moment to be found and once there is, you know it's just seconds before a maudlin cue is feebly sought to sell a tender "daddy issue" exchange.

It boggles the mind how five writers can be credited for a film that makes such lousy decisions, but to even consider the quote "too many cooks spoil the broth" wrongly assumes that this broth ever would be truly edible.
It's with more than a little sadness that I've got to report that the film marks the feature directing debut of '80s child actor Fred Savage. It's unfortunate for someone who's been involved with terrific stuff ("The Wonder Years", The Princess Bride) to have his name attached to this, which undermines his years of helming kids' shows on Nickelodeon and Disney Channel. Let's hope he doesn't become one of the handful of filmmakers regularly assigned to direct drecky family fare in drecky fashion.

It's rare for critics to be as in agreement as they were on Daddy Day Camp. That one website which compares movies to fresh and rotten vegetables deserves less credit than it gets, but the number that it shows for Daddy meaningfully reflects how few reviewers (1%), no matter how forgiving their standards, had a favorable reaction to it. And really, why should they? The mix of bathroom humor, product placement, half-hearted efforts, and bland messages has already been done to death, too often with "family film" designation used as a shield.

At least this time, the formula wasn't rewarded. For every critic who panned the film, there were hundreds of thousands of people who ignored it, making Camp one of 2007's weakest performers at the box office. And if money indeed talks, maybe that means we'll see family films aspire to more.

Buy Daddy Day Camp on DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Closed Captioned
Extras Subtitled in English, Spanish
Release Date: January 29, 2008
Suggested Retail Price: $14.94 (Reduced from $28.95)
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5)
Black Keepcase with Embossed Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on Blu-ray Disc

VIDEO and AUDIO

While it's easy to level complaints against the movie, the DVD is essentially free from flaws as far as picture and sound are concerned. It's a pleasant surprise that Daddy Day Camp is available only in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, especially since Sony hasn't always preserved films' original aspect ratios on the format. (Nor have other studios; Disney issued Gooding's Snow Dogs in fullscreen in its homeland.) Picture quality is without issue; it's immaculately clean, appropriately sharp, and plenty vibrant. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack also merits praise. The score is undoubtedly excessive, but it's adequately conveyed. And the movie delivers some reasonable atmosphere in its outdoor camp setting. Memorable directional effects include airborne arrows and buzzing flies.

I knew at that moment I could make a better movie. (Adult Kevin Arnold's voice still creeps up on Fred Savage sometimes.) The "What I Learned at Camp" quiz manages both to sharpen your Spanish skills and embarrass Cuba Gooding, Jr. at the same time. The main menu's image tricks a passing glance into thinking a new Meatballs sequel is in your DVD player.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

Two bonus features are found here. First is "How I Spent My Summer: Making Daddy Day Camp",
a general production featurette (11:45) that serves up a predictable mix of reverential interview remarks, set footage, and film clips. The one thing that distinguishes it is that the child actors do most of the talking, but this only ensures that the piece stays glossy, superficial, and promotional. At least it's accessible enough for the young target audience to enjoy.

Next is "What I Learned at Camp", an interactive quiz that can be taken in English or text-only Spanish. Trivia buffs might want to go here first, but the questions pertain to the previous featurette, not the film. You needn't have paid too much attention, though, since the questions are generally easy. Answers are followed by a short clip which either congratulates or condescends and then the featurette excerpt that confirms the correct answer. The ten questions are always the same on return visits, and I can't imagine even the easily amused being very riveted by them.

After a brief animated intro, the main menu settles on a still image that would be home on a 1980s movie poster while lengthy excerpts of score play. Submenus employ similar backdrops but make up for a lack of music with some focal character stills.

Before the menu loads, trailers play for The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep and The Final Season. These are also readily accessible from the Previews menu, where they're joined by promos for Roxy Hunter and the Mystery of the Moody Ghost, Cole and Dylan Sprouse's modern-day The Prince and the Pauper, "Storm Hawks", Are We Done Yet?, Daddy Day Care, Surf's Up, and the dynamic duo of The Last Day of Summer and Shredderman Rules!. Par for the course, Daddy Day Camp's trailer is nowhere to be found.

Like many a new film, Daddy Day Camp is treated to a cardboard slipcover which merely reproduces the cover art below, only with embossed characters on the front. In place of a chapter insert we get an ad for other family-oriented Sony DVDs with a back that holds two coupons to Chuck E. Cheese's.

Phil and Charlie give each other a knowing look as a school bus full of kids crashes into the cabin, marking the camp's first of many mishaps under new management. The nine focal campers need some encouragement at the big climactic Intercamp Olympiad.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

A sequel, a kid-oriented movie, a direct-to-video-quality production that reached the big screens... no matter how you slice it, Daddy Day Camp is pretty lousy. I'm sure that most involved with this film are capable of better things and those with experience have shown it. I can't comment on how this compares to its predecessor, but I think I'm safe in saying that if you've spent time reading this review, this movie's not for you. Here and there, the odd kid might enjoy it, but only the warmest memories will keep them from quickly growing out of such a phase. Sony's DVD provides fine video/audio and there are worse ways to spend 15 minutes than watching the featurette and game. Still, this is one DVD that will be easy to resist in a bargain bin and even that situation is several months off.

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Related Reviews:
Starring Cuba Gooding, Jr.: Snow Dogs Norbit Home on the Range
Fred Savage, Actor: The Princess Bride: 20th Anniversary Edition | Fred Savage, Director: Disney Channel Holiday
The Cast of Daddy Day Camp: Lochlyn Munro: Deck the Halls Space Buddies | Paul Rae: Air Buddies Santa Buddies

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Reviewed January 20, 2008.



Text copyright 2008 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2007 TriStar Pictures, Revolution Studios, and 2008 Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
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