Aug 8, 2007

Movie Review: Daddy Day Camp

A Sony Pictures Entertainment release of a TriStar Pictures and Revolution Studios presentation of a Davis Entertainment Co. and Blue Star Entertainment production. Produced by William Sherak, Jason Shuman. Executive producers, John Davis, Matt Berenson, Derek Dauchy, Richard Hull, Chris Emerson, Nancy Kirhoffer, Jefferson Richard. Co-producers, Rhiannon Meier, Adam F. Goldberg. Directed by Fred Savage. Screenplay, Geoff Rodkey, J. David Stern, David N. Weiss; story, Rodkey, Joel Cohen, Alec Sokolow.

Charlie Hinton - Cuba Gooding Jr.
Lance Warner - Lochlyn Munro
Col. Buck Hinton - Richard Gant
Kim Hinton - Tamala Jones
Phil Ryerson - Paul Rae
Dale - Joshua McLerran
Ben Hinton - Spencir Bridges
Uncle Morty - Brian Doyle-Murray

Some former child stars have been known to overdose on drugs, get busted for carrying guns, pose nude for Playboy and appear on late-night infomercials. Fred Savage has directed "Daddy Day Camp." As helmed by the onetime "Wonder Years" thesp and first-time filmmaker, this sequel to the 2003 Eddie Murphy comedy may appeal to auds still young enough not to have seen it all before, or who still find flatulence hilarious, or who think adults, when agitated, flail about like epileptic marionettes.

More discerning auds may find the hyperactive tone of this dysfunctional family comedy a bit hard to swallow. Having succeeded at running their home-based day care center, Charlie Hinton (Cuba Gooding Jr.) and partner Phil Ryerson (Paul Rae) start up a dilapidated day camp -- largely because Charlie wants revenge after the childhood trauma of being humiliated at the 1977 Summer Camp Olympiad by Lance Warner (Lochlyn Munro), who's now the head of rival Camp Canola. The dump Charlie and Phil buy, Camp Driftwood, is a long-neglected health-department violation with a methane problem in the outhouse. You find yourself counting the seconds until it blows up. You don't wait long.

Much of the humor revolves around bodily functions and feral children. Vomiting. Bed-wetting. Exploding outhouses. When someone actually uses a toilet, the film feels as though it's moved uptown.

After an initial surge in campers and then a dropoff following an initial series of catastrophes, Charlie and Phil are left with a hardcore group whose parents, one must conclude, are negligent, ill or imprisoned. There's the belligerent fat kid; the tiny, oh-so-articulate girl; the hillbilly felon-to-be with a mullet; the delicate boy who, when he throws up, manages to do it on someone's shoes or sleeping bag.

And there's Charlie's son, Ben (Spencir Bridges), an uncertain little camper who will eventually find himself -- thanks to his dad and his martinet of a grandfather, Buck (Richard Gant). Dad and Grandpa, lifelong antagonists, will eventually meet in a middle ground between wimpdom and the Marine Corps.

"Daddy Day Camp" suffers all the near-classic sequel handicaps: an all-new cast lacking whatever celebrity luster was embodied by the first; a story that essentially recycles the original's sitcomish elements; a director getting his feet wet in features (Savage has done a lot of TV, which is what this feels like); and the general sense that no one was really in it for anything but a quick payday.

Production values are adequate, except for that outhouse explosion, which may have been an outtake from "Pearl Harbor."

Camera (Technicolor), Geno Salvatori; editor, Michael Aller; music, Jim Dooley; music supervisors, Manish Raval, Tom Wolfe; production designer, Eric Weiler; art director/set decorator, Mark J. Mullins; costume designer, Carolyn Leone; sound (Dolby Digital/SDDS/DTS), Les Udy; supervising sound editor, Sandy Gendler; visual effects supervisors, Tom Burton, John Follmer; visual effects, Technicolor Digital Services; assistant directors, Craig Steiner, Matias Alvarez; casting, Lindsey Hayes Kroeger, David H. Rapaport. Reviewed at Sony screening room, New York, Aug. 2, 2007. MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 89 MIN.

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*this review is writeen by John Anderson, officially published at Variety.com

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