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Cheaper by the Dozen (PG)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: One

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary by director Shawn Levy; Audio Commentary by kids; 11 deleted/extended scenes; 4 featurettes; 2 storyboards; Easter egg; Hank’s Tommy Max commercial.

AMERICAN family comedies, by their very nature, usually come beset with some sort of unsubtle message, a fair amount of gloop, and one or two precocious kids. Cheaper By The Dozen, needless to say, has 12 of the latter, which is where its many problems really begin.

Based on the 1950 film of the same name, which was, in itself, based on a true story, the plot finds Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt as former college sweethearts, Tom and Kate, who are struggling to juggle the demands of their successful careers, with the size of their family.

The happy situation becomes exasperated by the fact that Tom gets offered his dream job of coaching The Stallions football team, which involves moving from rural Illinois to hectic Chicago, and Kate’s latest book, based upon her experiences of raising 12 kids, gets picked up by a publisher.

Hence, Tom is left to stay at home and look after the family while juggling his responsibilities as coach, as Kate heads off to New York to front a publicity drive for her novel, which involves 14 days away from her loved ones.

You can virtually guess how the ensuing scenario unfolds, with both parents forced to choose between a love for their professions and the responsibility of parenthood, while the children must adapt to life in a new town and taking some form of responsibility for their actions.

Directed by Shawn Levy, whose past record includes the equally lame Just Married, Cheaper By The Dozen lazily hops from one contrived situation to the next, only occasionally raising a laugh along the way.

These come courtesy of an extended, but uncredited, cameo from Ashton Kutcher, as the vanity-obsessed boyfriend of the family’s eldest daughter (Piper Perabo), and a couple of twins, who succeed in bringing terror and destruction to all who happen to cross them.

But the remainder are an unspectacular bunch, who conform to just about every cliché going, in order to address the movie’s seemingly desperate need to stick to formula - a ploy which obviously worked with US audiences.

The more discerning, however, may find themselves lamenting Martin’s continued fall from grace, while also groaning at just how sickly-sweet Levy seems content to let things become, or how juvenile.

Almost inevitably, the career versus family scenario involves break-ups, arguments and divisions which all get resolved in some way, while the script cannot resist playing towards the obvious laughs. Hence, when the sight gags begin to get tiresome, there is always a bodily function worth exploiting, and a yucky scenario just waiting in the wings.

Levy may have got away with it, too, had the children been more appealing, but aside from Tom Welling (aka the young Clark Kent in TV series, Smallville) and the aforementioned twins, the rest are a one-dimensional bunch who thrive on their ability to manipulate the viewer’s emotions, while Hilary Duff (The Lizzie Maguire Show), in particular, is especially grating as a consumer-fixated teenager.

The very young may derive some satisfaction or joy from it, but the majority are likely to be reaching for the sick bucket long before the drippy finale rears its ugly head. All of which means there are about a dozen good reasons for not seeing it in the first place.

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