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Review for the Week of 12/21:

View My Mid-Week Column Here.

Cheaper by the Dozen




Rated PG | 98 mins


Note: The following refers to a viewing of this film at a sneak preview on December 21st. It will be widely released on the 25th.

     Comedy is a tricky art to master. In order to succeed in making the audience laugh, one must be open about their self, and allow the audience to understand them, in many ways. Cheaper by the Dozen has nearly fifteen characters, who share an equal amount of screen-time. The filmmakers desperately want us to laugh, but weíre not able to. Every personality in the cast is left undeveloped; since we barely even know their names, how could they be funny? However, director Shawn Levy can be credited for creating an hour and forty minute long, enjoyable, if not entirely disposable, piece of fluff. This ought to be worth something.

     The story centers around the Baker family, which is comprised of the mother Kate (Bonnie Hunt), the father Tom (Steve Martin), and their twelve children. They live in the country, and despite their cramped lifestyle, they manage to get by just fine. However, when Tom is offered a higher paying and more prestigious football-coaching job in Chicago, and the family is forced to move, the kids are unhappy. In addition to this, Kate is busy trying to promote her new book thatís based on the familyís life-experiences, which requires her to travel for two weekís time. With only Tom and the eldest sibling, Nora (Piper Perabo), to take care of the lively bunch, the lives of the members in the Baker family become quite crazy. Fighting, rambunctious playing, and chaos ensue.

     I can guarantee you that, when I was a five-year-old, I wouldíve loved this movie. Itís bright and cheery, animatedly overemphatic in every way, shape, and form. But, back then, there were a handful of movies, in a little series called Home Alone, that were much better than this one. In Home Alone, I liked the little, ingenious hero, and I wanted him to succeed in executing his creative little plans. In this movie, I could care less about the characters and their exhausting schemes, which almost seem mean-spirited. Every kid can identify with Cheaper by the Dozen, but Iím not so sure that thatís a good thing. All that it contains is a warped view of life; in the end, our team of twelve is ultimately rewarded for doing wrong. Sure, itís emphasized that this was caused by the two parents, but it isnít nearly enough to change the underlying meaning. These signs of failure all point to the absence of character development, because we donít understand the emotions of the kids enough to root for them.

     Ironically, I couldnít have been happier sitting in the theatre, gazing at the screen, sipping my ultra-large cup of Coke. I was able to look past all of its flaws and sinuous intentions. Sometimes itís sweet to watch the family of fourteen that Craig Titley creates for us, even if the children arenít exactly a treat to be in the presence of. If I had cared for them, then perhaps I wouldíve been able to recommend the movie. Itís a tad disheartening to not be able to do so.


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