Steve Martin plays Tom Baker, the football coach of a small town high school, and the loving husband to Kate (Bonnie Hunt) and father to 12 children - Bakers Dozen, Geddit? The Bakers have raised the kids in a chaotic but nonetheless loving household, and have put their own dreams to one side for the sake of the family. But opportunity has come knocking for both Coach Baker, who has the chance to coach his old high school team the Stallions, and Kate, who is in the process of promoting a successful book about the trials and tribulations of bringing up such a large family. This means two things, the Baker clan must move house, and manage for two weeks without Kate, who is on a nationwide promotional tour. Cue heart-warming family morals and hilarious super-sized comedy? Errr No!
Cheaper By The Dozen is a remake of the 1950 Walter Lang movie of the same name, and is based on the book by Frank Gilbreth Jnr. which is a true life recollection of his own family. Directed here by Shawn Levy (Big Fat Liar, Just Married) this film is as predictable as night following day. Primarily intended for a younger audience it features bland and restrained performances from the leads, Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt, both of who are capable of much more. The film is like a book full of knock-knock jokes; they are totally predictable and raise a groan rather than a laugh when the punch line is delivered. Levy does a reasonable job of giving all the kids enough to do and say to ensure that we know who they are, and the movie is not without some mirth. The sight of (an unaccredited) Aston Kutcher getting his nuts chewed by the family dog is a particular highlight. This is one of those comedies that force feeds you with morality. We are all supposed to learn from the mistakes of the family so that we can avoid any similar banana skins in our own lives. I detest this kind of cheap symbolism, especially when it is tagged onto such an insipid, sugary, script. It may as well start with “Once upon a time..” and end with “Lived happily ever after”, then we can all skip the 90 minutes in between and do something more worthwhile like re-grout the tiles in the bathroom, or pluck the hairs from our nasal vestibules (nostrils).
As a very brief aside it is such a shame to see Steve Martin settling for such bland conventionality. He and Eddie Murphy seem to have been stripped of their edge and originality by a succession of Hollywood drivel. It is no coincidence that the last piece of worthwhile material they did was Bowfinger, which of course they did together. He could make a million of this kind of movie (indeed he seems intent on doing so) but if you want to see the real Steve Martin buy The Jerk, Planes Trains and Automobiles, Roxanne, or my personal favourite The Man With Two Brains.
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