Thursday, 1 August 2013

Cheaper By The Dozen (2003)

Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt play Tom and Kate Baker, respectively. Tom and Kate are the parents of, in case you couldn't guess, twelve children. Hence the title. The movie shows the chaos of their daily lives and some particular highs and lows that the Baker family go through as they work together as a team to deal with whatever life throws at them.

Directed by Shawn Levy, this is Disney-lite fare. In other words, it's NOT a Disney film, but certainly tries to be one. The thing to remember, as hard as it can be at times, is that Disney can do this kind of thing brilliantly when it gets everything in place. It can take material like this and elevate it, turn it from something groansome into something really enjoyable. Levy doesn't manage that.

Based on a 1950 movie that was based on a biographical book by Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, this is an old-fashioned and a safe family comedy. It rarely feels as if much has been updated from when the original movie was made. That's not to say that kids won't enjoy seeing the kids all play around and cause some havoc, but it doesn't make it a completely satisfying experience for all the family.

Martin and Hunt are decent enough in their roles, given most of the screentime while also playing second fiddle to all of the kids. It's a shame, but inevitable, that they aren't given better treatment. The younger kids don't fare much better, with most of them struggling to stand out from the crowd (twins Brent and Shane Kinsman are the exceptions). The older Baker children benefit from the fact that they're played by well-known actors - Tom Welling, Hilary Duff and Piper Perabo - but the most fun comes from Ashton Kutcher, playing a vain actor/model boyfriend of Perabo. Kutcher stays well within his comfort zone, but provides some great laughs as he's pestered by the Baker children, who just don't like him. Alan Ruck and Richard Jenkins also appear, both are also underused but it's good to see them.

The script by Sam Harper, Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow is insubstantial, content to simply link from one set-piece to the next with neither enough good bits in between nor enough value in the main, big sequences.

It's passable enough, especially if you have kids to keep entertained on a rainy afternoon, but only just.


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