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Cheaper By The Dozen

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Cheaper By The Dozen

Starring: Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt
Director: Shawn Levy
Rated: PG
RunTime: 90 Minutes
Release Date: November 2003
Genres: Comedy, Family

*Also starring: Tom Welling, Piper Perabo, Hilary Duff, Ashton Kutcher, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Merris Carden, John Dixon, Benjamin Fitch, Adam Taylor Gordon, David Kelsey

Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

If your post-holiday shopping includes looking for a fun family film that'll have your brood laughing no matter what their ages, then the movie for you this Christmas season is CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN. A remake of the 1950 film with Steve Martin playing the Clifton Webb part of the father of an extra large, economy-sized family, CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN is directed with gusto by Shawn Levy (BIG FAT LIAR). Not taking itself seriously until its predictably message-laden last act, the movie is unabashedly slapstick. And it's a lot of fun.

Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt play Tom and Kate Baker, a pair of patient parents who set out to have eight kids but overachieve, ending up with twelve. When we meet them, Kate is slinging toast like Frisbees to her small army of munchkins, while overhead the family frog is about to take a flying leap into a big bowl of scrambled eggs, turning their breakfast into their usual family disaster. Other than sometimes asking the littlest of the Bakers to mouth overly complicated lines, the movie is as misstep free as it is pratfall happy.

Hilary Duff, of "Lizzie McGuire" fame, is uncharacteristically given a relatively minor role as Lorraine, the second daughter and the "self-appointed coordinator of health and hygiene" for the family. Lorraine also has the thankless and hopeless job as the family's fashionista. Duff is quite cute in her small part, something that can't be said of Piper Perabo, who plays the oldest daughter, Nora. Perabo's lame acting reminds us of why, even with several juicy roles, she has never been able to break through to anything even remotely approaching stardom. Ashton Kutcher, playing Nora's boyfriend Hank, is terrific in a self-mocking part as a would-be actor who is thoroughly in love with his own image.

The story has the family moving from their small, overcrowded house to a spacious mansion after dad gets a college coaching job and mom lands a book deal. Of course, the kids will spend most of the movie pining for their old homestead and the simpler lifestyle that went with it.

Living in a family eleven kids shy of the Baker's dozen, we laughed most at an only-child joke. "How come we didn't have more kids?" Dylan Shenk (Steven Anthony Lawrence), a rich, nerdy, chinless kid, asks his preppy mom (Paula Marshall) after the Bakers move into their tony neighborhood. "Because we wanted one perfect kid, and that's what we got." My wife and I harassed our son at this point in the movie by simultaneously patting him on his shoulders and giving him a sarcastic smile.

The movie is filled with funny moments, but the one I thought was the cutest involved Nora and Hank, both in their early twenties. When they start kissing on the sofa, Kate treats them like wayward cats. Clapping her hands together loudly, she commands in a booming voice, "Nora, stop!" You should stop too. Stop by after Christmas and treat your family to this nice little comedy.

CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN runs 1:38. The film is rated PG for "language and some thematic elements" and would be acceptable for all ages.

My son Jeffrey, age 14, thoroughly enjoyed the picture and gave it ***. He thought it was funny, sweet and great fun. He especially liked the good chemistry among the siblings.

Copyright 2003 Steve Rhodes

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