A 10-question quiz--one of two brief bonus features--asks viewers to remember which of the talents involved in "Daddy Day Camp" won an Oscar.
A follow-up question might have been, How did Cuba Gooding, Jr. freefall so quickly from that wonderful Academy Award-winning performance in "Jerry Maguire" to being a virtual piñata for a bunch of snot-nosed kids?
There's one scene where Gooding, Jr. is supposed to stick his head inside a tent to assess the damage after a youngster vomited inside, and he emerges with splotches of gunk on his face. Well, I hope someone showed him the money, because it's clear he didn't do this film for the fun of it, or to develop his acting chops.
This film is SO bad, it's hard to imagine that former "Wonder Years" wunderkind Fred Savage directed it, or that it took three writers to come up with something so offensively dumb. Since the writers are still on strike and wanting the studios to show them more money, let's recognize the three who gave us this brainless, tasteless, unfunny comedy: Geoff Rodkey ("Daddy Day Care" and "RV"), J. David Stem and David N. Weiss ("Are We There Yet?"). If their script is lacking a cliché or cheap-gag, it's not because they didn't try to cram every one they could into this 89-minute film, which gives family movie night a black eye.
I mean, would it have hurt these guys to even remotely consider logic, or to try for a joke that wasn't crude or obvious?
Before the opening credits (and our eyes) have finished rolling, we've witnessed kid-mayhem at Daddy Day Care, which is celebrating an anniversary when they should have been raided by police or had DCFS cart the kids off to safety. One kid has his pants down peeing in a potted plant, others are smacking each other with hard objects, and a little girl has toppled the Daddy Day Care cake and no one seems to blink an eye. And it's not just kids doing the gross-out, unbelievable stuff. You also have Charlie (Gooding, Jr.) and Phil (Paul Rae, "The West Wing") doing things like swatting a fly on a burger with a spatula. And the humor, if you can call it that, never varies. It's always more of the same, along with a side order of cheese.
Oh, poor Charlie had a bad camp experience, and so he wants his boy not to go to camp or else give him a positive experience. He never felt approval from his military dad (Richard Gant), and it's painfully obvious the way this information is conveyed that by film's end he will. Here's a thought: if he and Phil, who attended camp together, want to give their kids a good experience, why not let them go to Camp Canola, where all their friends are going? It's a rich kids' paradise, with valet parking, ATV courses, paintball, and all sorts of amenities. Why make them attend their former broken-down Camp Driftwood, where they themselves were traumatized? It's a stretch to have them buying the camp and whipping it into shape in what seems like a matter of days, but it's even more unbelievable that by handbills alone they'd come up with a full busload of kids of all ages who'd attend their day camp, or that parents would send the kids back after reports of what went on the first day. And suddenly they're having an overnight at the camp. Uh, what parents of an 11 year old girl would allow their daughters to spend the night with three bumbling men and a mixed group of boys? And why are these girls roaring back and belching like the guys, rather than being grossed out?
Oh, I remember. The entire film is a gross-out. If you like fart jokes, crap jokes, barf jokes, pratfalls and peril-humor, you might like this film. Then again, there are so many of the same gags that I doubt it. Even when Phil lights his lighter in the outhouse and it blows up, it's sadly un-funny. That's because the minute a plumber tells them "you've got a methane problem" and that "it's dangerous," you know it's going to happen. Then, the only question is how, and when Phil ends up wearing the toilet seat around his head like a necklace, can you get any more clichéd or contrived?
Worst, though, is the "competition" between camps and camp leaders that drives this film as much as the father-son acceptance thing (which we get on two levels, each of them just as shallow). You can believe that a rich nerd like Lance Warner (Lochlyn Munro) would have his parents buy his old camp and that he'd be a real jerk about it. But for a family movie to glorify violence and disrespect like this one, is just too much to bear. Remember the kid with yellow eyes in "Christmas Story" who had a short toadie? Well, Lance has a toadie, and it's a kid who isn't his own. And the things this kids says to Charlie, an adult? Stuff like "You poop in your pants," "You pea brain," as if he were talking to another kid on a playground. This is funny? This is family entertainment? Not in my book, nor is it funny or entertaining when kids from the other camp raid Camp Driftwood in military fatigues with paintball weapons. They destroy the camp, they hurt campers, they tie up Phil, and one of Camp Driftwood's fearless leaders gets a daytime assault punch in the privates. I'm sorry, but if you have to have kids beating up on adults and other kids and no one thinks, we should call the authorities, you may have a movie, but it's not family-friendly. Whoever is rating the films these days needs a refresher course. This one gets a PG for "mild bodily humor and language." Well, all you "buttheads" and "crapholes" out there, if you think that language is mild, then hell, I mustn't be connected to the real world. But I'll tell you this: I have more of a sense of reality, and what's funny, than the people who produced this pukey pap.
There must be a subset of Murphy's Law that says when a film is really bad the picture will look really good in 1080p. That's the case here, or maybe it just always seems so because you're looking for bright spots. But the 1.85:1 picture looks great, with good edge definition, good color saturation, and strong black levels. No complaints here.
Same with the audio, which cranks out an English, Spanish, or French Dolby TrueHD 5.1 or a Portuguese and Thai 5.1 Surround, with subtitles in English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Korean, Chinese, Portuguese, and Thai. Same quality as the video.
Mercifully, there's just a quiz (not even fun clips, just a static background) and a very brief making-of feature on "How I Spent My Summer Making Daddy Day Camp" that's so-so.
I don't know how a film that's based on stupid, gross-out humor with zero respect for others translates into a "family comedy," but "Daddy Day Camp" isn't all that family-friendly in my book, nor is it funny. It's as painful to watch as it must have been for a talent like Cuba Gooding, Jr. to make.