Welcome to Daddy Day Care, Charlie Hinton's curiously successful seven-year experiment in child care and education. Please come in. The staff consists of Charlie and his comical buddy, Phil. Child-to-staff ratio: about 357 to one. Enrichment activities: water fights, food fights, paint fights and urinating into potted plants.
What's that, you say? You're looking for a summer day camp for your wee ones? Well, you're in luck. Charlie recently opened up a nature-intensive camp that follows the same exacting standards of Charlie's day-care center.
Noooo, we really don't know who operates the day care in Charlie and Phil's absence. What difference does it make? You're interested in the camp, not the day care, right? So all you need to know is that Camp Driftwood is fun, fun, fun! If you'll just sign right here. ...
If you look beyond the silliness, the greasy grimy gopher guts and the kersplat pratfalls, Daddy Day Camp is (sort of) about integrity, honor and respect—and about how families can blend one another's best traits into something better.
Charlie doesn't even like camp, what with "all those snakes and spiders and wedgies." But he loves his son, Ben, dearly and wants to give him the positive camp experience he never had. So he buys the dilapidated camp of his youth and tries to remake it in his own image. That means no competitions. Charlie frowns on competition because he wants the campers to accept and love themselves for who they are, not what they win.
"I want you to grow up to be kind and caring and accepting of other people, even if they make mistakes," he says. (Hey, at least his heart's in the right place.)
Ben, of course, is initially put off by his dad's touchy-feely nature, and he instead gravitates to his leathery, can-do-anything grandfather, Colonel Buck Hinton, whom Charlie "drafted" to help out around the camp. And it’s the Colonel who instills a bit a discipline in the campers, and teaches them to trust one another and work together.
Charlie and his father clash mightily at first, until Charlie's wife tells him that if they "united around each other's strengths, Ben could have the best of both worlds."
One camper pulls himself away from playing video games and finds, at camp, a world that leaves World of Warcraft in the dust.
The Colonel leads campers in a yoga-like meditation experience that, he says, was inspired by samurai warriors. He also tells a timid camper that "the good Lord's filling up the sky with a million night-lights, just for you."
One camper, Robert, falls for Juliette, a fellow camper who has somehow figured out how to toss her hair in slow motion. "She even puts on bug spray like an angel," Robert says. He clumsily woos her and, oddly enough, it works. She eventually rewards him with a kiss on the cheek.
Juliette wears short shorts in a few scenes, and there's a fleeting glimpse of some girls at the rival Camp Canola wearing midriff-baring swimsuits. When campers steal the pants of enemy camp leader Lance Warner, he storms around in briefs festooned with little stars.
One boy tells his father he doesn't want to go to camp, saying he wants to see "nudie flicks on cable" instead.
Campers and counselors are pelted with paint gun pellets, eggs, water balloons, fruit and pastries. One camper hits Phil in a particularly sensitive place, and another hits Charlie with a stick. Lance's own pest of a son kicks him in the shin.
The first busload of children hits and demolishes one of the camp's buildings. A bathroom is somewhat worse for wear after a methane explosion. Charlie accidentally whacks Phil with a board.
The Colonel leads a military "assault" on the camp down the road, throwing eggs and tomatoes, stealing Lance's pants and slapping him in the face with a pie. Their actions are in response to Canola's campers constantly roaring through Driftwood property on ATVs, tying up counselors and generally causing havoc.
Crude or Profane Language
One or two uses each of "h---" and "crap." God's name is wrongly interjected a handful of times. More frequent are such words as "dweeb," "jerk," "loser," "dork," "idiot," "sucks" "butt" and "poop."
Drug and Alcohol Content
As they drive to camp, Ben and Max (Phil's son) sing, "6,238 nonalcoholic bottles of beer on the wall/6,238 nonalcoholic bottles of beer ..."
Other Negative Elements
It might actually be a blessing in disguise that the scriptwriters had the camp toilet blow sky high on the first day. If it hadn't, the whole film might've taken place right there.
Even so, that toilet may be the grossest accoutrement ever to grace a PG film. It's so disgusting the plumber says its "methane problem" will take $14,000 to fix, and those who use it must enter with a gas mask. We see Phil using the thing—sitting and reading. When the electricity goes out, he lights a match and the whole place goes boom. Phil—face sooty, the toilet seat around his head—is left standing in his boxers.
"We're going to need more toilet paper," he deadpans.
Speaking of toilet paper, one camper mistakenly uses poison ivy to wipe himself.
You've already guessed that bodily functions are integral to Daddy Day Camp's shtick. So I'll severely limit the number of examples I give: Campers hold burping contests. Charlie is forced to sleep outside his own tent after Phil passes gas. A boy urinates into a potted plant (onscreen). Another fills a water balloon with his urine (offscreen) and throws it at a Camp Canola camper. Yet another was apparently written into the story solely to throw up. He tosses his cookies all over Charlie's shoes after a run-in with a skunk. He licks a cooked banana, runs into Charlie's tent and upchucks. And he helps Driftwood win a key tug-of-war contest by, yep, spewing his guts all over the opposition.
Caring about kids doesn’t translate into supervising them at the Daddy Day Care and the Daddy Day Camp. Children are allowed to, among other things, paint one another, and spray each other with ketchup and mustard. An unmonitored toddler snacks on an unmonitored cake and, eventually, sends it hurtling to the kitchen floor. This bedlam is apparently meant to convey that these children are happy and, um, well looked after. But while Camp Driftwood's designated bully is taught how not to wet his sleeping bag, his habit of verbally insulting campers is never curbed or even noticed.
Campers break into the camp's snack shack and gorge on candy.
Let's forget for a moment that it's not funny. Let's forget that the reworked plot has been done better in countless other creations. Let's forget that Eddie Murphy's been unceremoniously replaced. And let's accept that most kids go giggly over gross, whatever the context. The fact of the matter is this: Daddy Day Care sequel Daddy Day Camp wields its morality like a carnival barker—trying to convince parents their children are soaking up positive lessons in between all the projectile vomit and urine-filled balloons.
The morals themselves are OK: Pops is pretty cool even if he acts pretty crazy. It's possible to be both tough and caring. Grandparents can still teach their own kids a thing or two. But you can learn all that by watching a rerun or two of Lizzie McGuire or That's So Raven and save your gag reflex for when you might really need it.
Daddy Day Camp, then, is a sweet and sticky s'more—burnt to a PG-rated crisp over a raging fire sparked by an exploding toilet.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Cuba Gooding Jr. as Charlie Hinton; Paul Rae as Phil Ryerson; Richard Gant as Colonel Buck Hinton; Lochlyn Munro as Lance Warner; Spencir Bridges as Ben Hinton
Fred Savage ( )