Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Decade of Dreck #8: Daddy Day Camp

the funniest part of the entire enterprise is the tagline Charge Shot!!! is celebrating the end of the decade in the most masochistic way we know how - by watching and writing about the 100 worst movies of the last ten years as defined by film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Click here to see RT's complete list, click here for more about the Decade of Dreck project, and click here to see all of the movies we've done so far.

Studios like Pixar and (once upon a time) Disney have shown over the years that a children’s movie does not necessarily need to lower itself to cater only to children. It is possible to make a movie that makes kids laugh and appeals to their sense of imagination and wonder without also alienating the people with the kids, the ones who have to come and pay to see this crap.

Daddy Day Camp makes no such concessions to the adults in the audience. It’s filled to the brim with the requisite, kid-targeted fart/poop/urine/barf jokes. There’s no subtlety to any of the performances, not one single joke aimed at the parents over the heads of the kids.

What I’m saying is I think that cinemas should have given every parent exiting the theater after watching Daddy Day Camp their money back, a medal, and a handwritten apology note from director Fred “Wonder Years” Savage.

Eddie Murphy Cuba Gooding, Jr. is Charlie Hinton, a guy who runs the successful Daddy Day Care out of his home. His son Ben wants to go to day camp, but Charlie isn’t so hot about that because when he went to Camp Driftwood as a kid he was beaten by this other kid Lance from Camp Canola in the big intra-camp Olympics and, even though this happened decades ago, he is still very upset about it. His wife makes him sign his son up for day camp anyway.

But now, Camp Driftwood is a dump, and that guy Lance owns the rival camp, which persuades Charlie to buy Camp Driftwood just so Lance can’t buy it and tear it down. This is something no rational adult would do. Hijinks ensue as Charlie does a really shitty job of running the camp. He brings his dad the Marine taskmaster in to fix everything up. Then Camp Driftwood beats Camp Canola in the big intra-camp Olympics, vindicating Charlie and convincing all the parents that they should really be sending their kids to Camp Driftwood. Everyone is happy, the end.

Okay, Daddy Day Camp, you have Cuba Gooding, Jr. in your movie because you couldn’t get Eddie Murphy to commit to a sequel to the original Daddy Day Care. That’s okay. He’s past his prime, but he’s still a reasonably big name, and he doesn’t have to take whatever work the universe decides to throw at him. Plus, maybe since they’re both black guys, no one will notice that you have a new guy playing the same character? But if you can’t get Jeff “Strange Wilderness Garlin to come back for more, what kind of movie are you, really?

Daddy Day Camp makes the additional mistake of casting a large number of children – a poor choice, given your average child’s acting ability. The child acting present in Daddy Day Camp is nearly atrocious enough to make the broad, awful, hammy performances turned in by every adult involved look nuanced and competent by comparison.

The movie ends with the awesome lesson that the only way to beat cheaters in a contest is with additional counter-cheating, that winning will make you happy and bring your family together, and also that losing is okay but really you should try hard not to lose because losing is for jerks.

The final indignity is that the end credits are in Comic Sans. It’s too fitting for words.

Daddy Day Camp is ranked #16 on the Rotten Tomatoes Worst 100 list with 1% freshness. Its RT page can be found here.