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Dads dont make laughs

Even Eddie Murphy can't bring comedic life to 'Daddy Day Care'

Daddy Day Care' begins with the peppy pop song 'Walking on Sunshine' while we watch an adorable toddler start his day. He pops out of bed, puts on his 'SpongeBob Squarepants' slippers and trots down to the bathroom. The music then pauses so we can hear the sound of the child urinating and flushing the toilet, picking up again as he starts to brush his teeth.

This scene sets not only the humor level for the rest of this aggressively unfunny film, but also the pacing. Lots of things happen in 'Daddy Day Care,' but none of them are especially interesting. God knows they're not funny.

Eddie Murphy Ñ continuing his decade-long habit of starring in uninteresting movies Ñ is Charlie Hinton, a marketing executive at a big food conglomerate. When his campaign for Veggie-O's broccoli-flavored cereal deservedly tanks, he and his partner Phil (Jeff Garlin) lose their jobs. Money woes force them to remove their kids from the ultraposh Chapman Academy, so they (naturally) hit on the idea of starting their own day-care business.

All of this exposition takes an excruciatingly long time to develop. Or maybe it just seems that way because the first half of the film is utterly devoid of humor. While waiting for the laughs that never arrive, you may find yourself asking a lot of questions about the Hinton family's finances Ñ like how much do midlevel marketing executives make, anyway? The Hintons' house is practically a mansion. And if they're so strapped for cash, why don't they get rid of their Mercedes convertible?

Charlie's wife (Regina King) goes back to work as a lawyer, but since it's been established that she had their son, Ben (Khamani Griffin), right after graduating law school, we're back to wondering about cash flow. Calculating what their enormous mortgage must be and how much the day-care center is making, plus her income as a beginning law clerk or whatever she is É really, the audience should be provided with a Quicken spreadsheet or something to put our minds at ease.

Like workaholic Charlie at the beginning of the film, having a job means that Mom is never home and has no contact at all with her husband and child, so her character disappears entirely for the middle third of the movie. This leaves lots of opportunities for Murphy and Garlin to chase after hyperactive, screaming children and screw things up in ways that aren't entertaining in the slightest.

As the oh-so-evil matriarch of Chapman Academy, Anjelica Huston reprises her character from 'The Witches,' all but twirling her nonexistent mustache and going 'bwah-ha-ha.' Garlin, a gifted comic actor, is reduced to getting hit in the crotch, dancing like an idiot and being chased by a swarm of bees.

The children are sometimes adorable but mostly run around shrieking. Eddie Murphy plays exactly the same bland character that he's played in every movie since 1999's 'Bowfinger,' the last good film in which he appeared.

The only small pleasures in this film are provided by Steve Zahn as a 'Star Trek'-loving goofball who helps out with the kids. But everything else in 'Daddy Day Care' will leave you craving a juice box and a long nap.