Welcome to 'Daddy Day Camp,' or "The depressing nadir of Oscar winner Cuba Gooding Jr.’s once-promising career." In the span of ten years, Gooding went from taking home the gold for 'Jerry Maguire,' to cashing paychecks for forgettable fare like 'Boat Trip,' to starring in this abysmal sequel to an already bad movie.
'Daddy Day Camp' is technically a follow-up to 2002's 'Daddy Day Care,' but like many recent sequels, rather than continuing the story, it merely recycles the same premise. Gooding and Paul Rae star as Charlie and Phil (roles originated by Eddie Murphy and Jeff Garlin), who trade day care for summer camp when Charlie's son Ben (Spencer Bridges), forgetting his father’s fear of the woods, sets his sights on a season of fun and frolic. After overcoming his anxiety and bonding with his son, Charlie and good ole Phil eventually take over as the leaders of Ben's motley pack of fellow campers. This all sets the stage for the big (and predictable) finish, in which the geeks show up the cool kids at a rival camp, and madcap hilarity ensues.
The “story” in 'Daddy Day Camp' is entirely familiar -- anyone who grew up watching 'Meatballs' and 'Revenge of the Nerds' will recognize the "slobs against the snobs" formula, and it's always obvious which side the film is on. Memorable and original characters have made this type of movie work in the past, but alas none of the characters in 'Daddy Day Camp' are drawn with passion or distinction. The young actors are endearing, but they just don't stand out -- in fact, minutes after finishing the film, I had trouble recalling any of them. Compared to many recent films with strong-willed young protagonists (such as 'Bridge to Terebithia' and of course the Harry Potter series), 'Daddy Day Camp' really squanders its greatest asset.
Unfortunately, compared to the adult actors, the kids of 'Daddy Day Camp' come off like champs. I hate to blame an actor for an entire film’s failure, but it’s hard to separate 'Daddy Day Camp' from its mugging star. Frankly, Gooding doesn't give a performance -- he simply flails his arms, rolls his eyes, and looks embarrassed. Eddie Murphy at least seems invested in even his worst films (and the original 'Daddy Day Care' ranks among them), but here, Gooding seems to be parodying himself.
'Daddy Day Camp' marks the big-screen directorial debut of one-time child star Fred Savage ('The Wonder Years') -- I wish I could say it was an auspicious debut, but it comes across as a TV product, with little visual style and a poor sense of pacing and performance. Savage seems to have one speed on his dial -- over-the-top -- and the frantic slapstick and lack of emotional nuance quickly grate on the nerves.
Lest anyone reading this think I'm being too hard on 'Daddy Day Camp,' it's worth noting the film’s current 1 percent fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes, and its number 14 ranking on IMDB’s All-Time Worst Movies list. Still, I’ll go out on a limb and give 'Daddy Day Camp' two stars, since I suspect children will probably enjoy it, and anything that makes a kid smile can't be all bad. Just set your sights for 'Daddy Day Camp' really, really low.
'Daddy Day Camp' comes to Blu-ray in a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer, framed at its original 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio. Given the subject matter, you might expect this one to look bright and cheerful, but instead the film’s presentation is depressingly dour and dank.
First, the good news. Befitting a new release, the source print is in great shape, with nary a blemish or speck of dirt to be found. Blacks are also nice and solid, with Sony delivering a smooth encode with no obvious artifacts or edge enhancement.
Now, the bad news. The transfer jacks up the contrast, giving the film a harsh, unrealistic edge that betrays its tone. The movie never looks how a day at summer camp should, but is simply blown out. Colors, while fairly bold, suffer from a sickly cast, and fleshtones are digital and waxy. Thanks to the boost in contrast, there is a fair amount of depth to the image, but I've certainly seen more detailed Blu-ray transfers -- demo material this ain't. 'Daddy Day Camp' is far from unwatchable, but it’s simply nondescript high-def.
Departing from its usual uncompressed PCM mixes, Sony has gone the Dolby TrueHD route, providing English, French, and Spanish versions (there are also standard Dolby Digital 5.1 dubs in Portuguese and Thai).
Typical of a kid-flick, the sound design is aimed at maximum splat. All of the on-screen shenanigans (paint-throwing, food fights etc.) are accompanied by bursts of effects in the rear channels, which are pleasingly loud and punchy. Unfortunately, that's as creative as the mix gets. For a movie that takes place in the woods, there is no real atmosphere, while the unmemorable score by Jim Dooley bleeds weakly to the rears.
The mix sounds bright but not overly crisp, with low, well modulated bass, clear dialogue, and no volume balance issues. The source elements are also predictably pristine for a new release, with no distracting defects.
Given that 'Daddy Day Camp' was a bust at the box office, I suppose it's no surprise that Sony has produced an anemic supplement package for the film's Blu-ray debut. At least the extras (all three of them) are in full HD.
'Daddy Day Camp' is a wholly unnecessary sequel. It has its cute moments, but it's downright depressing to watch the awful performance by a slumming Cuba Gooding, Jr. This Blu-ray release is a fine but unremarkable presentation of an equally unremarkable film, with get decent video and audio, but next to no supplements. If you’re desperate for high-def entertainment for the kiddies 'Daddy Day Camp' may do in a pinch, but your family deserves better.