"Daddy Day Camp" movie
Fathers and Sons
By Madelyn Ritroksy
As “kiddie” movies go, Daddy Day Camp lives up to its ads on Cartoon Network but that’s not really saying a whole lot. Since my 8-year-old watches Pokemon on that channel, we have both seen the film’s ads flash across the screen several times over the last week.
Now we had both seen Daddy Day Care (2003), starring Eddie Murphy, and enjoyed it. So when I received notice of Daddy Day Camp’s advance screening, my son was ready to check out the new movie.
When we walked out of the screening, I asked him if he enjoyed it. He did. It’s not surprising since the humor in this film is targeted to his age group. And most of the audience was parents with kids.
What 8-year-old doesn’t enjoy fart jokes or puke gags? In fact, I’d say the shot that got the biggest laugh was a close-up of Paul Rae’s butt as a loud fart bellowed on the soundtrack. To add to the laughs, this was in a pup tent, with Cuba Gooding, Jr., lying right next to him.
However, when I asked my son what he liked about the film, his first response was that the main character’s son climbed trees and it turned out to be the skill needed at the end of the film for the rag-tag group of kids to beat the snotty kids in an inter-camp competition.
The central characters in Daddy Day Camp are the same as Daddy Day Care, but the actors are different. So is the director. This time it’s actor-now-TV-director Fred Savage making his feature directorial debut. In the new film, Charlie Hinton (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) and Phil Ryerson (Paul Rae) have the successful day care from the first film, but decide to invest in their old summer alma mater, Camp Driftwood.
Turns out the old director, played by Brian Doyle-Murray in a small role, is ready to leave the running of the run-down camp to his new partners. Thus the set-up for the men to jump headfirst into something they know little about and where sight gags and blow-up-the-toilet stunts can abound. Yes, the latrine explodes. When Phil is reading a magazine…
When the over-the-top mean director of rival Camp Canola (Lochlyn Munro) keeps insisting that Camp Driftwood must compete in the Inter-camp Olympiad, you know how the movie will end. Okay. I’m not a kid anymore and so I’m jaded.
There is a more interesting (for me anyway) plot thread in the film, and that is a doubled father-son dynamic that adds some nice “heart” to the silliness. Charlie harbors resentment toward his retired-military father, Col. Buck Hinton (Richard Gant). Charlie’s son, Ben (Spencir Bridges), feels his father doesn’t understand him. I think it’s hardly a spoiler to say that each father-son dyad reaches a new understanding by the closing shot. This is partly facilitated by the happier grandfather-grandson relationship.
What may be most interesting is that these relationships are treated with some seriousness. After the competition finishes, the three stand together and hug before the camera cranes up and out as they turn and walk away to join their campmates. More specifically, it’s who is occupying this three-shot that is important three African-American men. It’s their inter-relationships rather than a white man-black man dynamic that structures the emotional heart of the film.
Just like with Daddy Day Care, there is nothing in the script that would indicate that Charlie Hinton was required to be African-American. Yet Eddie Murphy got the original role. That’s a good thing. Many, if not most, roles can theoretically be played by anyone, but in practice, typecasting and “invisible” racism and sexism too often precludes consideration of actors who might otherwise be very interesting in particular parts.
Unlike most of the other summer “family” movies, which are rated PG-13 for violence, Daddy Day Camp is rated PG (for those fart jokes). It opens in theaters August 8, 2007.
2007 Film Entertainment Magazine / EMOL.org. All rights reserved.
Film Entertainment Magazine
• Actors: Joey Lauren Adams, Joseph Bologna, Samantha Brown, Steve Buscemi, Allen Covert
• Format: Color, DVD-Video, NTSC
• Language: English, French
• Studio: Sony Pictures
• DVD Release Date: September 28, 2004
• Run Time: 185 minutes
Daddy Day Camp (2007)
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