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Daddy Day Care

Seen: 2003.05.14   ¶   Reviewed: 2003.05.17

It was with a heavy heart that we schlepped up to Yonge & Eg for yet another MoPixed Eddie Murphy picture. One more time: Someday somebody’s gonna get all Punch-Drunk Love on his arse and force him to play a straight dramatic role. Then we won’t believe our eyes. At present, though, we believe them all too readily.

I thought of Sharon Stone’s choice to appear in an heartwarming t(w)een picture, The Mighty, as I contemplated the family nature of Daddy Day Care. It’s almost free of sexual innuendo, unless you count the fact that Eddie “Black Don’t Crack, Let Alone Gain Bodyfat” Murphy always seems to be wearing short sleeves and/or shorts and/or arse-hugging chinos. (I was so bored I kept note of his wardrobe changes.) And of course unless you count Anjelica Huston’s slumming-with-British-accent turn as a dominatrix in a school governess’s uniform. And, I suppose, unless you count a lengthy scene that attempts to defuse assumptions that adult men are interested in children for only one reason. Attempts, I emphasize.

After decades of poor African-Americans on TV shows, do we really need the corrective of rich African-Americans in film? I suppose possibly. It would be nice if such characters bothered to wear seatbelts in their Mercedes convertibles. I presume it is some sort of American thing.

I pre-resented Daddy Day Care. I can see that now. I should have learned that lesson, really, from experience. Except in this case I was actually right. How could the sensitive and intelligent Steve Zahn end up in a role spouting Star Trek references that were banal in 1995? Why are fat guys, and their arses, treated as the butt of jokes?

If one wished to open a licensed daycare (it’s really one word) in one’s own home, wouldn’t a license be necessary before you open? Oh, but then a nebbishy inspector, well played but dressed in cliché suit and bow tie, would have no cause to repeatedly show up and simply warn of infractions rather than shutting the place down, as would actually happen. And obviously it would count as no contravention of duty for an inspector to actually work at a location he inspects, as, in the same way, it is no contravention of predictable formula that he would use puppets to complain to the children about his marital breakdown and psychotherapy.

Nonetheless, it’s entirely believable that E. Murphy could neglect his own son, as he does in subtle but hamhandedly-depicted ways. Actually, those scenes are a kind of documentary of child neglect by rich (African-American, ejecting-fatally-from-Mercedes-in-fender-bender) parents.

After an incomprehensible plot leap in the dying minutes of the third act (as film types say), in which E. Murphy goes back to his day job and essentially sells his kids to Anjelica Huston, suddenly the daycare operation is back in business in what appears to be a strip mall. Every adult in the picture seems to be working at the daycare, even the nebbishy inspector. Even children – especially children – recognize a sea of happy faces, untired bodies, and unsquabbling kids as something verging on science fiction. Isn’t this straight out of Gattaca, that sacred treatment of genetic engineering? Kids of the future: Custom-engineered to coexist, petting-zoo-style, in daycares run by men who got religion about nurturing and daddyhood.

Nauseating, isn’t it?

Perhaps very worst of all, half the kids don’t talk like kids. The smart kids (custom-tagged with the telltale Coke-bottle glasses – I had them too) talk like Peanuts characters, but with worse line readings, i.e., stammered and incomprehending.

Then there’s the product-placement-like soundtrack, which seems like a middle-aged white guy’s apologia to black music – the Jackson Five, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five (no kidding). Plus, I suppose, Sweet.

Theatre experience

It was no problem tonight. We had to Windex our own reflectors, which I complained about. I have ample empirical evidence that playaz have tons of time to do that for us.

While waiting for the show to begin, we endured the usual cavalcade of ads, but also a slideshow before those ads, as though this were 1977. Weirdly, the slide for a local jewelry shyster was animated. It used a monospace font (in arguing about it with Mr. X, I misidentified it as FF DIN; gonna have to rewatch this one) to simulate scrollup captions. I couldn’t believe it. Then the next slide was static, as expected. What’s going on there?

A mere 14 other people in the auditorium. Imagine a world where E. Murphy’s number of strikes, now vastly exceeding three, finally causes him to be called OUT. It would be a dream come true, really.

Caption quality

♪ Now baby I'm sure ♪ requires a comma. It’s a vocative. So do Go Broccoli! (a character in the picture – what was our first clue we were in trouble?) and Go Carrot!, seen a total of five times.

Similarly, ♪ Oh, darlin' I was blind ♪ needs a comma after the vocative. Warm, nurturing experienced parents needs a comma, too, while Yeah, it was a really long, grueling, singling-out process does not (otherwise you can reorder the terms: a singling-out, grueling, long process).

(speaking German): and (in Klingon): – well, just write the damned words. You only ID the language if you’re not gonna caption it, which GBH goes right on to do. What 25-year-old female with a poli-sci degree (the typical clueless Canadian captioner) is making this journeyman error?

Missed a gigantic arrow-thunking-into-target sound effect, and another massive-thudding sound effect 30 seconds later. Many other SFX were captioned, and these were of foreground interest. Microphone feedback and a bellowing of “Ahh!” were also uncaptioned.

-Oh! (stammers) Go! is a bit complicated, as were That (snorts) thing and this one:

♪ Hava nagila, hava nagila
(mumbling) ♪ Oy!

(What in G-d’s name are they doing strumming “Hava Nagila” in a movie entitled Daddy Day Care?)

A mini-van is in fact a minivan. Who’s captioning this, Andrew Sullivan?

Here’s a fun one: What do you the captioner do when the script as delivered is flat-out wrong? E. Murphy says to his son “She’ll be back around dinnertime, Mommy.” Mommy? Mommy’s the one who’s gonna be back at dinner. “She’ll be back around dinnertime, Ben” (or sweetie or equivalent) is what was really meant. But we caption what they say. (Then again, there’s the declaration “We applied for a license the other day!” when it is, in fact, Day 1 in the chronology of the picture.)

I suppose I should get back on topic. Every frame is filled to the edges with error.

Reasonably hideous caption:

-I’ll try it.
All right.

For the nth time, the right way is as follows (allowing for absence of en-dash character in the caption font):

- I’ll try it.
- PEGGY: All right.

Note left justification.

9-1-1: Again for the nth time, just write the numbers: 911. We are not engaged in narrow phonetic transcription. The difference between articulated “nine-eleven” and “nine-one-one” is irrelevant. It’s not like S-P-E-L-L-I-N-G a word out.

♪ "I'm a man" ♪ is not actually a quote.

One has a small dispute in transcription of “I Wanna Be Sedated” (though they got ♪ 20-20-24 hours to go ♪ right): Is the line in fact not “Nothing to do, nowhere to go-ho”? There’s another syllable at the end. I think it’s a meaningless internal rhyme. We could ask the various Ramones if half of them weren’t dead. And that song’s final caption ended in a period, an old cœlecanth of a Caption Center technique they seem unable to shake. (I thought some whippersnapper was captioning this one? Perhaps just that other reel.)

"It!" It's happening is actually "It"! It's happening as the bang is not part of the quoted material. Whippersnappers and their journeyman errors again.

(making nonsensical noises): What would those be? How is this NSI notation understandable to a deaf person?

KIM (voice-over): and CHARLIE (voice-over): They’re not narrators! Knock that shit off. I’ve been seeing that a lot recently. Just ID the damned speaker.

Description quality

None! No descriptions whatsoever.

Oh, but now the fun begins.

Exit interview

Dedicated readers will be aware that the Yonge & Eg location has a persistent problem with the infrared emitter blocking the caption display. Four times I’ve complained about it, the last time to the actual projectionist.

Welcome to number five!

Except it was worse than ever. Even before the movie, during the Welcome to Rear Window. Please adjust your reflectors placeholder message, we could tell that two lines of captions were being interfered with. During the picture, both Mr. X (who already had noticed) and the ordinarily unfussy Mr. Y noticed the blockage. Mr. Y never gets upset about anything, but as we left the theatre, he specifically wanted to stick around and find out what was wrong.

The same manager as last time was on duty. And he was overwhelmed, as last time, but less so. Over came the projectionist again, in a T-shirt advertising some low-rent demicelebrity or activity, like tractor pulls. (He never wears the uniform. Something of a working-class æsthetic going on there, but I like what he’s trying to do, if only because working-class æsthetic tied to a sweet nature and obvious technical competence is an acceptable combination.) I explained the problem: The emitter is rotated so it blocks all the characters of the third caption line as seen in “classic” caption-blocking, but adds superspecial extra caption blockage on the second line.

The projectionist was in strong control of his reactions. He had the lid on tight. Still, I could tell he was annoyed and embarrassed, with cold anger bubbling up. All the foregoing was true at once. Trust me: I can read ’em.

As it turns out, the projectionist, whom you will note I am not naming, handed off the display-installation task to their longtime “contractor.” (Why? He was tired of being in the shop till two in the morning, what with all his other duties.) The contractor more or less slaps the display in place and walks away. My guy told me that, after my last complaint but before he handed off that duty, he personally checked each installation to ensure the captions weren’t blocked. (I think he needed to actually sit down to do that, but be that as it may.)

I got the impression from the projectionist and the manager, who received a radio message in his earpiece from the theatre manager while we were talking, that this was pretty much the last straw for the contractor. I was assured, to use my terminology, that the fear of God would be put into this fellow.

Why no descriptions? Because the emitter was angled all the way to the left. I suppose if I sat at the left rear of the house I could have heard them. Infrared emitters are partly directional, unlike omnidirectional radio waves.

Mine was the first complaint since the duty handoff. I explained that not many people use the system, blind people would never notice (except for the emitter problem), and deaf people would either assume it was their own fault or would not bother trying to complain given that (a) all the staff are hearing (who wants to deal with hearing people yet again?) and (b) communication about such a tricky subject would be so very tedious.

In other words, we were the first and only people to watch Daddy Day Care with MoPix. Fortunately it was us because we did complain. (That’s all three of us. I had the projectionist recap the situation to Mr. X so he could hear it. Mr. Y had followed along.) The PJ was willing to leave the system broken for the next and indeed final showing, knowing full well that nobody deaf or blind was gonna show up. But he promised it would be fixed.

It really had better. I took pains to explain that I trusted Mr. PJ’s work and his sincerity, but since this had happened five full times, on occurrence number six I would have no choice but to write to the current president of Famous Players. (I also separately rang my lad at head office, who had more or less insisted I report problems to him as well.)

Further free passes were handed out to Mssrs. X and Y, and off we went.

And two other notes:

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