And we thought we were going to see a summer recreation comedy.
“Daddy Day Camp,” the recast follow-up to the 2003 hit “Daddy Day Care,” confronts two of the gravest issues currently facing Americans: war and foreclosure.
Granted, the enemy is a rich kids’ camp in a better neck of the woods and the bank threatening to yank the poor slob’s property is remarkably negotiable in times of crisis. Still, one watches this instantly disposable sequel with the nagging sense that the writers were feeling a little overwhelmed by the larger global picture at the time of the script’s creation.
It’s possible to read too much into “Daddy Day Camp,” which has Cuba Gooding Jr. stepping in for Eddie Murphy as Charlie Hinton, a formerly out-of-work dad who now runs a thriving day-care center with his buddy Phil (Paul Rae, taking over for Jeff Garlin). At its artificial heart, the film is really just a below-average story of grown-ups behaving like kids and kids acting like movie kids.
Charlie is prompted to start a day camp for no better reason than that it’s time for his own son to go to camp and the only game in town is run by Lance Warner (Lochlyn Munro), the guy who terrorized Charlie as a kid. Helped by Phil, he acquires a ramshackle operation called Camp Driftwood that comes with debt as deep as the sewage in its neglected bathrooms.
It also brings unwanted incursions by childhood nemesis Lance, who is spoiling for a good old inter-camp competition. Enter Charlie’s crusty Marine dad, Col. Buck Hinton (Richard Gant), gunning to whip the Driftwood losers into winning shape. Whose methods will carry the day, dad’s bruising military discipline or Charlie’s peacenik decency?
As one might anticipate with a comedy about children and the outdoors, a lot of screen time is devoted to bodily noises and throwing up. Watching Gooding flounder in the mire of jokes constructed largely around the gastrointestinal system reminds one that he is a comic actor of sincere but limited resources, early-career Oscar notwithstanding.
Directed by Fred Savage, “Daddy Day Care” has the distinction of being the least necessary sequel in a summer with more sequels than good news.
Cuba Gooding Jr. and Paul Rae star in “Daddy Day Camp.”