Daddy Day Care and The Dancer Upstairs


Opens Fri., May 9 at Metro and others In this stunningly unfunny movie, Charlie (Eddie Murphy) loses his job as a high-paid ad exec and is left to take care of his 4-year-old son, while his lawyer wife (Regina King) screeches off in the Benz each morning to bring home the bacon. The same happens to his colleague, Phil (Jeff Garlin), and they soon devise a plan to keep themselves occupied and the electric bills paid. They open "Daddy Day Care," recruit a dozen tiny rug rats, andwho would have thought?"hilarious" situations arise involving potty training, comic-book obsessions, and cooties. Trouble comes in the form of Miss Harridan (Anjelica Huston), owner of the snooty rival business where she refers to children as "growing vines that must be weeded and pruned." She's the only crisp touch in the otherwise-mediocre comedy. You know Murphy's getting lazy when a WWE-style smackdown between the two dads in giant vegetable suits is Daddy's most amusing offering. (PG) ROSIE BOWKER THE DANCER UPSTAIRS

Opens Fri., May 9 at Harvard Exit If anybody other than John Malkovich had directed Dancer, nobody would be reviewing it. Adapted from Nicholas Shakespeare's 1995 novel inspired by Peru's hunt for Shining Path philosophy-professor-turned-Maoist-terrorist-leader Abimael Guzmán, the movie is as thrilling as watching a philosopher-turned-slug slime his way ponderously along his own small shining path. Malkovich has an OK eye, and he renders the setting intriguinglya nameless Latin American nation whose government teeters on the edge of disintegration. The Guzmán figure styles himself as communism's "Fourth Flame" (modestly deferring to Marx, Lenin, and Mao) and leaves a spoor of bombings, shootings, and dogs hanged from lampposts. On his shadowy trail is the more satisfyingly corporeal Agustin Rejas (Javier Bardem, whom Malkovich was hip enough to cast before Before Night Falls). Rejas is feeling pressure from all directions: The government wants the terrorist's head, pronto; his adored daughter wants him to live to see her ballet recital; and since his wife has a mind like a mud puddle, Rejas burns to boink his kid's dance teacher, Yolanda (Laura Morante). Morante does have soul, as does Bardem, but Malkovich is too cold to bring their romance to life. The guy lives aristocratically in cloud-cuckoo-land; his sensibility is too refined to descend fully into ours. The movie taunts us with promising scenes: a bravura terror attack on an avant-garde theater, vivid villages where refugees hide, and worlds of hurt implied by Bardem's bottomless eyes. But the story implies more than it actually bothers to say, and Malkovich's sense of rhythm is as bad as the senile drummer in the SNL skits. We'd just be bored by this, but the good scenes suggest that Malkovich could've made a propulsive Costa-Gavras intellectual thrillerbut lordly chose not to. Being John Malkovich means being perverse above all things. No doubt, he regards our frustration with a dry, superior smile. (R) TIM APPELO

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