Daddy Day Camp

After recently polling the entire planet, I’ve learned that there wasn’t a single soul alive who requested a sequel to “Daddy Day Care.” Of course, that’s not going to stop Sony, who justifiably want to see how far they can milk this premise.

Fresh from the success of their “Daddy Day Care” service, Charlie (Cuba Gooding Jr.) and Phil (Paul Rae) look to expand their coverage when Camp Driftwood, the summer escape of their youth, is threatened with closure. Hoping to reverse the camp’s fortunes, the two clean up the dilapidated grounds and struggle to find activities for the kids, while fighting off competition from the affluent Camp Canola. Needing help to keep the camp orderly, Charlie calls in his military father (Richard Gant) to lead the kids to glory.

Cuba Gooding Jr.? Hey, where’s Eddie Murphy? Sorry folks, but Eddie dashed off to more lucrative fields of employment, leaving this sequel not much of a sequel at all. In fact, there are no returning cast members. It seems the producers wanted to start over with fresher (or cheaper) talent and reboot the franchise with lowered expectations. It’s a smart move.

“Day Care” wasn’t the worst family film to walk the runway, but it’s reliance on bathroom humor dampened what could’ve been a much more uproarious enterprise of parental-figure instability, and it further proved that Eddie Murphy has lost sight of his once unstoppable sense of humor. The same couldn’t be said of Gooding Jr. who has disfigured his career so horribly that a stroll with nose-pickers in the woods is likely the best thing for him right now.

In the Murphy role, Gooding Jr. is a fine replacement, even better if you’re looking for a demonstration of sheer enthusiasm. Always rippling with energy, the actor brings a generous amount of exasperation to the role. What’s strange about “Day Camp” is how much the film avoids his leadership; it’s more of an ensemble this time around, with the kids of Driftwood enjoying as much screen time as the acting pros.

Director Fred Savage (yes, that Fred Savage) isn’t exactly challenging the material with his easygoing direction, but he’s confident enough to inject a little life to the party outside of the bodily functions tangents, which are found in even greater numbers for the sequel. The kids poop, piss, and puke their way around the film, but Savage brings out some satisfying performances from the tykes, offering them scenes beyond mere screaming and horseplay.

“Day Camp” plays just fine until it hits the melodramatic third act, where Charlie has to repair his relationship with his military father. The film doesn’t need a heartfelt detour, especially any creation that contains a revenge scenario involving a urine-filled water balloon, and it disappoints me that the production didn’t have the guts to assemble a more relaxed summer camp farce. Trying to touch the soul in a film this lightweight is humiliating to Savage and the audience.

“Daddy Day Camp” is a mild diversion for kids, perhaps better suited to a Saturday morning DVD viewing than shelling out big bucks to see it on the big screen. It’s a microscopic improvement over Murphy’s installment, but that’s hardly a compliment.

Rating: C+