Cheaper By the Dozen (2003) — A serious case for birth control

“You soaked his underwear in meat. That is so wrong. Funny, but wrong.”

Lissa’s rating: She had 12 kids and she still stayed that skinny? Wow.

Lissa’s review: I love going home, for the most part. I have an awesome mother that hasn’t said a word about grandkids even though I’ve turned 30 and Duckie and I have been married for two years, a stepfather who likes to cook us venison, a sister who is undeniably the coolest person on the planet, and a grandmother that outranked both my grandfathers during World War II. There’s only one problem: my stepfather’s movie collection.

Now, Duckie and I most definitely have an eclectic movie collection, given that our tastes don’t always overlap. And I know that we’ve got some movies that people would raise an eyebrow or two over. But my stepfather has us beat by about a hundred million times. First, about 90% of the movies in his collection were made in the ’80s. Now, I appreciate a good ’80s flick as much as the next person, but man, let me tell you… some of them did NOT age well. And then there’s the content. Despite the fact that my stepfather is a hunter, a blue collar worker, and a poker player, he has this strange fondness for movies that include dancing. So his collection is heavy in movies like Top Gun and Lethal Weapon, but also has a lot of Dirty Dancing and Flashdance. And to top it all off, whenever we go home he tries to get us to watch Pure Country, which I probably should watch at some point just to review it.

It’s not that these movies are inherently bad. But the thing is when my mom, my stepfather, Duckie and I try to pick a movie, we just can not get all four of us to agree. It’s almost impossible.

Enter the point of this review: Cheaper By The Dozen is a movie all four of us could watch and enjoy. And if my grandmother was joining us, she’d get a kick out of it too.

It’s been done before, back in 1950. I’ve never seen the first version, but that’s okay. I’ll live. But this second version is really enjoyable.

Steve Martin plays Tom Baker, a father of twelve, husband to Kate (Bonnie Hunter), and a football coach at a Division III school. Life is hectic with 12 kids, but pretty obviously good, although I can tell you you’d never be convincing ME to have that many whippersnappers running around the house! But the Baker family is happy and all that, until Dad gets a job offer to coach a Division I school, and wants to take it. The family’s not happy (except Mom), but they deal. And then Mom gets her book published, and has to leave home for a few weeks… leaving the kids with Dad.

And chaos ensues.

The chaos is pretty typical stuff, although I’ve got to admit the middle girl is a certified evil genius, especially when it comes to harassing her oldest sister’s boyfriend. (I found this very true to life, incidentally.) Good clean family fun, and several notches above the Home Alone-type antics that seem to go into most family comedies. But what really makes this film is the interplay between the characters.

Steve Martin is very good at this sort of comedy. I know he’s got a mouth on him when he so chooses, but I’ve always liked him in the family-oriented films. His Tom Baker is lovable without being too goofy or sappy, and he’s just got that charisma that makes it hard to not enjoy watching him. Naturally, Tom Baker is great with his twelve kids, and like most girls I’m a sucker for watching a guy play Perfect Father.

But I also really enjoyed the relationship portrayed with his wife: happily married, still attracted to each other, and very supportive of each other. I know I hammer on this point every time I see it, but I really like seeing good marriages portrayed in movies. Sure, the Bakers fight and bicker and all that, but they compromise and work things out and actually listen to each other. And even better… the parents do that with the kids. In a family movie, I really, really like seeing that.

The kids actually manage to have relatively distinct personalities. Of course, with 12 kids you can’t focus on all of them and so about six are brought to the forefront. But none of them are sappy cute or way too clever for a child their age or anything I else I find highly objectionable in movies with kids. In fact, the kids all seem well-written for their ages, and I dare you to watch this and not want to hug Mark, the ultimate middle child who’s named his frogs Pork and Beans.

I really can’t find anything bad to say about this round of Cheaper By the Dozen. It’s funny, it’s sweet, and Ashton Kutcher says (with a perfectly straight face) that he’s a lousy actor and only gets jobs because he’s good-looking. It might not be terribly creative, but it’s like comfort food. Good comfort food. And it’s actually something that the entire family can watch and enjoy. Around the holiday season, finding a movie that’s good for Grandmas and teenagers is a pretty necessary thing. So grab it for after the turkey dinner or whatever, and enjoy!

Didja Notice?

  • Twelve kids. Ouch.
  • Pork and Beans
  • How much would a house like that in the Chicago suburbs COST, anyway?
  • New ways to bring your work home with you!

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