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Cheaper By The Dozen
2003 - PG - Mins.
Director: Shawn Levy
Producer: Michael Barnathan
Written By: Frank B. Gilbreth Jr.
Starring: Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt, Piper Perabo, Ashton Kutcher, Hilary Duff
Review by: Greg Ursic
   
When Tom Baker (Steve Martin) is offered the job of his dreams – coaching football at his alma mater - he leaps at the opportunity. It will however take a few adjustments on the part of his family, what with moving to the big city, finding a new place to live, enrolling the kids in school, etc. Further complicating matters is the fact that there are 12 siblings in the Baker brood to contend with. Just as everything is starting to fall apart, Mom gets a job offer that will take her out of the picture.

I’m always leery of family movies, and by that I don’t mean ones that are made for families but rather those that rely on families for their yuks, as it there is a fine line between cute/amusing and repetitive/aggravating. The alarm bells blare especially loud when the movie in question is a loose remake of a film that was mediocre at best. If you follow your instincts you’ll seldom go wrong.

The kookiness that Steve Martin brought to Bringin’ Down the House is totally absent here: Tom is a slapdash blend of seriousness and his attempts to be funny are a pale shadow of Martin’s former “wild ‘n crazy guy” self. The resultant contradictions cross over into the realm of TV-movie melodrama and fall flat. Bonnie Hunt, while upbeat, isn’t believable as a mom whose supposed to have had a dozen kids, for one, she just looks way too good. And relaxed. The rest of the cast, with one notable exception, fares little better.

The only bright spot in the cast is Ashton Kutcher, who has a great time doing pratfalls and mocking himself. At one point his character points to his face and states “Look I’m not a good actor, I know that. This is the money maker”. Funny, self-introspective glamour boy stuff that works.

The entire movie plays as a series of worn clichés from beginning to end including the terrible twins, the gutsy tomboy, the sulking teenager, etc. There are the required scenes of children throwing up (except here the setup is beyond contrived), food being thrown about and errant unusual pets (don’t kids have dogs anymore?). There is also the requisite outcast, who, feeling he doesn’t belong, will seek serenity in solace which will lead the formerly loving and now conflicted family to an epiphany and bonding marked by swelling music. And please explain to me how a family that is living from paycheque to paycheque manages to afford a monster home in the suburbs. Exactly how much are they paying rookie college coaches these days?

There is little that stands out in this film besides it’s banality – it is an unoriginal, paint by numbers “comedy” that is largely bereft of humor and generally painful to sit through. If it’s dysfunctional family interactions you’re looking for, the holidays are coming soon, and you don’t have to pay admission.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better. Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better.
  2 out of 5 stars

 
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