Monday, September 10, 2018

Not Without the Woman Whose Husband Killed My Daughter's Daughter

Some days, you want to dig up a classic from one of AFI's "most important films of all time" lists. 

And most others, you find a "crazed preschool teacher trying to kidnap a student" Lifetime thriller and your day is made.

Quick Plot: After a dizzyingly intense opening closeup on a rattlesnake and fast-setting sun amid the sounds of a car accident, we meet Rachel, an impeccably hair'd mom in the midst of divorcing her cheating husband Daniel (Bryce Johnson, aka Detective Wilden from Pretty Little Liars). Rachel would prefer to spend her days playing with 3-year-old daughter Mia, but Daniel's low-paying job as a prosecuting attorney is forcing the poor woman to go back into the workforce as a courtroom sketch artist. 

What's a fairly well-off but potentially financially challenged supermom to do but find the best nearby daycare, one highly recommended by her best pal. Teacher Gabby (Disney Channel princess Christy Carlson Romano) is almost too good to be true, offering complete support to Rachel and taking a special shine to Mia. Little does Rachel know the motives, which in true Lifetime form, are glorious.

Remember that car accident audio aggressively placed in the opening credits? See, back when Rachel was pregnant, she and Daniel ended up lost on a desert highway with fast-setting suns and glimpses of rattlesnakes. They asked for directions from a parked couple with a young child, only to give up, drive aimlessly, and end up smashing their car straight into the not-that-helpful strangers.

Of course, one of those strangers was Gabby. Her husband was left paralyzed and their daughter Crystal dead on impact. Naturally, Rachel enrolling Mia in Gabby's class is a sign from God that Gabby must take this child and raise it as her own. 

Typical Lifetime hijinks ensue. Gabby begins her plan, trying to mother Mia and enlisting her husband to dispose of the suspicious assistant teacher. Her increasingly odd behavior doesn't get by Rachel, and before long, an armed Gabby is banging at her door as police officers take their time driving under the speed limit to catch up.

Deadly Daycare is written and directed by Michael Feifer, a man who has made a steady career making movies with either "Deadly" or "The Dog Who Saved" in their titles. I've had something of an allergic reaction to the latter, but thankfully, Deadly Daycare is a little more self-aware at what it has to do and does it efficiently. 

Gabby is your ideal Lifetime villainess, a wronged woman who feels entitled to something not hers. The problem, to an extent, is that it's far easier to feel sympathy for the doomed Gabby than the perfect Rachel. On one side, we have a picture perfect beauty with a beautiful home, healthy child, and a job she can seemingly resume with a simple phone call and show up to whenever she pleases. On the other, there's Gabby, a more financially strapped woman who, you know, watched her husband lose control in the lower half of his body and her baby daughter die a horrible death. 

Somehow, we're supposed to be firmly on the side of Rachel, since there's no room for shades of gray in the Lifetime universe. It certainly leaves the film a tad unfulfilling, but if you came to such a movie expecting character complexity and moral challenges, you probably have deeper problems worth addressing.

High Points
Many a Lifetime thriller lives and dies by the zest of its villain, and Christy Carlson Romano has a blast playing the unhinged Gabby, maximizing her craziness but always keeping a very key kernel of the real pain she's been through

Low Points
Seriously, this is a movie where our heroine's love interest was responsible for the death of a toddler and paralysis of her father but faced no charges because of his legal connections and the film is 100% in support of him ultimately reuniting with the wife he cheated in an idyllic beach walk coda that belongs in a herpes commercial

Lessons Learned
Legally, you can't just go sticking video cameras in the corners of rooms

You know a divorce is bitter when one party is perfectly fine with the other being forced to live in a (DEEP BREATH) studio apartment

The first day of a murder trial is a less than two-hour ordeal, and the hallways have incredibly reliable wifi

Look, Deadly Daycare isn't going to improve your intelligence or inspire great art, but it's exactly what you want from a Lifetime flick. Nothing more, nothing less. Enjoy on Amazon Prime. 

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