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Eddie Murphy babysitting a bunch of sass-talkin’, mad-poopin’ tykes might have been a promising comedic concept—in 1983. Back then, the fresh-faced funnyman had both edge and the F-word, and you can easily imagine 48 Hrs.’ jabber-jawed convict Reggie Hammond or Trading Places’ motor-mouthed con man Billy Ray Valentine putting a gaggle of wee ones in their teary-eyed places. Box-office gold, I tell ya! But since then (Beverly Hills Cop II, The Nutty Professor II, Dr. Dolittle 2, and so on), Murphy has mostly been a mirthless shadow of his former self. So here’s the good news: In Daddy Day Care, at least he won’t make you cringe. Then again, this mildly amusing, mostly rote bit of family fare rips off so much from the far superior Mr. Mom (woobie alert!) that Michael Keaton oughta get royalties. Murphy plays Charlie, a hard-working ad exec who’s fired after his marketing strategy for Veggie-O’s breakfast cereal flops. With money at a minimum and his wife (Regina King) in law school, he’s forced to pull his son out of a snobby preschool (run by Anjelica Huston, poor thing) and become a bumble-at-home pop. Soon enough, Charlie and equally unemployed pal Phil (Curb Your Enthusiasm’s lovable tub Jeff Garlin) open up the titular business and oversee a gaggle of precocious pups, each one with a crazee quirk (kid dressing like the Flash, kid using profanity, kid calling 911). You can guess the lo-jinks: As Murphy chases children hopped-up on Little Debbies, Garlin gets kicked in the balls, attacked by bees, and freaked out when his own son can’t stop crapping (sigh: cue “Taking Care of Business”). Director Steve (Next Friday) Carr is essentially styleless, but at least his movie steers clear of the weepies and features some inspired casting. Steve Zahn provides grown-up chuckles as a Star Trek nerd who teaches the kids Klingon and performs an in-depth Wrath of Khan puppet show. And Jonathan Katz, of Comedy Central’s Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist, is deliciously deadpan as a child-services inspector who tells a story-time tale about a “55-year-old passive-aggressive who still lives with his mother.” Just don’t expect any gut-busting from Murphy. Of course, there’s always a chance that he’ll shine in Daddy Day Care II. —Sean Daly