Cheaper by the Dozen
3 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Shawn Levy
scr Craig Titley, Joel Cohen, Sam Harper, Alec Sokolow
with Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt, Tom Welling, Hilary Duff, Piper Perabo, Ashton Kutcher, Richard Jenkins, Alan Ruck, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Holmes Osborne, Paula Marshall, Alyson Stoner, Forrest Landis, Kevin G Schmidt, Jacob Smith, Liliana Mumy
release US 25.Dec.03; UK 6.Feb.04
03/US 1h37

The gang's all here: The fabulous Baker family (above), Duff and Welling (below)
duff and welling

martin hunt perabo
Cheaper by the Dozen Support Shadows: Buy a Poster
Here's another sunny remake of a classic 1950s family film starring Steve Martin as the frenzied patriarch. While the film does keep adults and kids relatively entertained, it also drifts into both lame slapstick and sappy sentimentality. Tom and Kate Baker (Martin and Hunt) always wanted a large family, but even for them 12 kids were a bit much. At least while living in the Illinois countryside there was plenty of space! Now their eldest (Perabo) has moved in with her vain actor boyfriend (Kutcher) in Chicago, and both Mom and Dad get their chance to pursue long-held dreams: Tom's offered a job in Chicago; Kate finally gets a book publishing deal. So they pack up the family and move to the city, then Mom heads for New York to work on her book, which of course puts strain on Dad's new job and the kids' adjustment from rural to urban life. Hilarious hijinks and Important Life Lessons ensue.

The film does well to focus on the more grown-up conflicts, leaving the younger kids' plots and antics to explode from time to time in well-staged set pieces. Some of this is quite hilarious (mostly the scenes where Kutcher is the butt of the joke), and the film only strains when it tries too hard to be heartwarming or meaningful. Martin is wonderful when he plays it straight--bringing out the wry wit in the dialog--but he's terrible at the broad physical comedy. Hunt is excellent as usual, providing the film's sharper moments. And the older children get decent characters (Perabo's independent young woman, Welling's brooding jock, Duff's fashion-obsessed teen), while the younger ones blend into a gelatinous mass with a few standouts here and there. Really, the main problem is a script that exists in a fantasyland where the worst thing a child ever does is to let his frog loose at breakfast time. Reality would be a whole lot grittier than this soft, silly movie. And perhaps a nod in that direction--along with a slight avoidance of so much sloppy syrup--would have helped.

cert PG some innuendo 21.Dec.03

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Cheaper by the Dozen L Taylor, Minneapolis: 4 out of 5 stars "A friend told me this was worth the money - and it looked so DARN cute. It is cute, predictable and well worth seeing. We laughed alot - then talked about what it would be like having 12 kids, went home to our 4 cats and were glad we had only 4. A good movie about family and kids, and definitely worth seeing." (12.Jan.04)
2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall