Cuba Gooding Jr. has a larger-than-life energy that recalls footballer Rod Tidwell in Jerry Maguire, the role that scored him an Oscar. Of course, that award has since become something of a curse. He's had brief glimmers in As Good As It Gets and Pearl Harbor, but then again, he thought Boat Trip and Snow Dogs were good ideas. His latest is the kiddie sequel Daddy Day Camp, which he talked up recently at the Royal York Hotel.
How did you deal with all those kids on the set?
It's a bit of a trick, because kids are like the essence of spontaneity and films are the complete opposite. You do take after take after take of the same thing, and it's hard to keep them motivated. But you see I navigated it okay [motioning to the cartoonish Daddy Day Camp poster behind us]. My face is all busted up, and somebody's grabbing me in the balls in that picture, just to make a point.
Lately, you've starred in more movies for younger audiences. How do you choose your roles?
Jack Lemmon was a big role model. I loved how he could take an audience into a character - serious, adult-themed - and then do something as wacky as Some Like It Hot, Jerry Lewis-esque. I've been given the opportunity to flit back and forth with genres. After Boyz N The Hood, I got this rush of these heavy, brooding characters, and I turned them all down and did Lightning Jack, this light character. You've gotta reinvent yourself if you have the ability to do it.
I fell in love with cinema through family films like, you know, Superman and Escape To Witch Mountain, and now I have the opportunity to be involved in them as an adult. How was the experience of being directed in Daddy Day Camp by first-timer Fred Savage (The Wonder Years)? Great. What a brilliant choice. I'm so proud of that choice, because there were a few directors thrown at us to consider for this movie. It's hard working with kids, to keep them motivated. But he knew their number.
What would be your dream role? I thought it might be musical, given your background.
I know! But - no. Because if that was the case I would've said yes to all these things. I passed on Ray, I passed on the Louis Armstrong story they wanted to do.
No Louis? That sounds like a good one.
It's gotta be the right script. I read the script and it wasn't really about anything. The other one that I was attached to for ever and I didn't even know I was attached to it was a film about Otis Redding. Oh my goodness. People were like, "Hey, you doing Otis Redding?" I was like no! No! That happened for a few years, but it finally went away. I mean, if I'm gonna do that, I want to do Bob Marley. Or Sly and the Family Stone. I wanna do a way-out character.
DADDY DAY CAMP (Fred Savage) Rating: NN
Daddy Day Camp is Cuba Gooding Jr.' s latest mistake. Filling in for Eddie Murphy in the Daddy Day Care sequel, Gooding plays a stubborn pop trying to rebuild his old summer camp. But all his nervous energy and animated mugging can't relieve the tediousness of this children's movie. The kids here are so charmless it seems intentional, as though first-time director Fred Savage (Kevin of TV's The Wonder Years) is working through some unresolved child-actor issues. Adding to the mess is a layer cake of painful clichés: crotch kicks, fart jokes galore, timeless classics like pies in the face and no fewer than three montages in a sad Ernest Goes To Camp/Addams Family Values retread. As in most such movies, the best part is the villain, a code-orange asshole played with relish by Lochlyn Munro.