Daddy Day Camp (2007)
Release Date: August 8th, 2007 MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Fred Savage Actors: Cuba Gooding Jr., Paul Rae, Lochlyn Munro, Richard Grant, Tamala Jones, Joshua David McLerran, Spencir Bridges, Telise Galanis
he fathers are back from “Daddy Day Care” and ready to take on the challenges of running a day camp in Fred Savage’s follow-up to 2003’s popular family film. Swapping Eddie Murphy for Cuba Gooding Jr. and Jeff Garlin for Paul Rae, this latest chapter picks up where its predecessor left off, establishing a similar tone and endearing – though expected – progression. Immediate comparisons to the more adult-tinged camp movie “Meatballs” may be drawn, but “Daddy Day Camp” has a specific target audience in mind (particularly with its PG rating) and doesn’t shy away from the kid-friendly pranks and childish gibes.
Fresh from their successes with Daddy Day Care, Charlie Hinton (Cuba Gooding Jr.) and Phil Ryerson (Paul Rae) recklessly dive into the notion of running a day camp – instigated by Charlie’s refusal to allow his son Ben (Spencir Bridges) to experience a disastrous camp ordeal equivalent to his own childhood fiasco. In addition to the multitude of maintenance issues arising from the rundown camp he acquires, Hinton must also contend with the nearby, competitive Camp Canola, run by his childhood nemesis Lance Warner (Lochlyn Munro). After a chaotically dismal first day that more than halves their clientele, Charlie’s wife convinces him to enlist the aid of his strict military father, Colonel Buck (Richard Grant), to restore order. Initially respecting his son’s request to keep a civil head about the constant torment and rivalrous raids from Camp Canola, Buck and the children decide to fight back and compete in the inter-camp Olympiad, an event that will require intensive training, a bit of luck, and a little brainpower to outsmart Lance and his unscrupulous minions.
The quirky characters make up at least half of the film’s appeal. Though some of the kids’ personalities seem a tad stereotypical, most are reasonably creative, with performances that feel more genuine than those found in typical, mischievous-children setups. Most often their reactions alone garner the laughs, providing a refreshing sense of nostalgia for those with similar misadventures (though hopefully the crashing school bus was purely based on fiction). Cuba Gooding Jr. adequately replaces Eddie Murphy – and may even be better suited for the role – as his demeanor gravitates towards overprotective father rather than animated firebrand. Speaking of obnoxious personalities, the film’s antagonist hordes enough screen time to become just that, though his energy and brazen sarcasm balance out the immaturity to the point that his character doesn’t outstay his welcome. And before he can get too carried away, his sidekick “son” always manages to step in to handle the silliest taunts, which often results in some of the more ironically humorous segments.
“Daddy Day Camp” skirts the overly preachy approach to stick mainly with the juvenile fun – a credit to director Fred Savage and his goal of entertainment first and foremost. Of course, there are lessons to be learned, but they tend to take a backseat to the hijinks; upon closer examination, they feel entirely unrealized anyway. Egging raids, hazardous animals, and cheerfully preposterous montages sustain the lighthearted atmosphere, which, while absurd, doesn’t tread into ambitious waters enough to surpass basic, expected shenanigans.
Though “Daddy Day Camp” benefits from authentically unruly child performances and an appropriate turn by the adults, the rather rehashed storyline will certainly not appeal to older audiences. And because the film caters specifically towards the younger crowd, there are scant moments designed to take advantage of subtle innuendo or disguised adult humor. It may be wiser for parents to drop the kids off rather than stay themselves (depending on how much of their inner child is still alive), but the easygoing tone and light morals make this a largely painless picture to sit through.
– Joel Massie