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CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN
U.S. Release Date: December 25, 2003
Distributor: Fox
Director: Shawn Levy
Writer: Joel Cohen, Sam Harper, Alec Sokolow
Producer: Robert Simonds
Composer: Christophe Beck
Cast: Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt, Piper Perabo, Tom Welling, Hilary Duff, Ashton Kutcher
Running Time: 1 hour and 38 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG (for language and some thematic elements)

Twelve Angry Kids
by Scott Holleran

Big families have provided comic movie material for a long time, from The Brady Bunch Movie, based on the television series which borrowed its premise from several wacky, zany family movies, to Please Don't Eat the Daisies, With Six, You Get Eggroll and Yours, Mine and Ours.

Leading the pack was a motion picture called Cheaper by the Dozen (1950), based on the book of the same name, starring Clifton Webb and Myrna Loy as an eccentric efficiency expert who tested his theories on the kids and his psychologist wife. The Steve Martin-Bonnie Hunt remake has virtually nothing to do with any of them. It's as fun as listening to 12 children scream at once.

Martin's exasperated father improbably becomes head coach at the suburban Chicago university where he met his wife, played by the irresistibly deadpan Hunt, who deserves a script worthy of her talents (a Jumanji sequel would be nice).

Hunt is smart, funny and attractive—but director Shawn Levy and the writers send her away to New York when a book she has written (called Cheaper by the Dozen) gets published. It's up to Daddy to take care of the little darlings. But, except for the nerdy individualist, who wisely attempts to escape the collective, there's nothing adorable about the bunch.

Despite some sight gags and a few pokes at overprotective parents—Cheaper misses an opportunity to lampoon the five-year-old-in-a-stroller set—what's supposed to be a funhouse is instead a noisy madhouse any kid would want to flee.

The children are angry mini-adults—the tomboy is particularly nasty—and their dilemmas are uninvolving. When they assault Ashton Kutcher's villain—he's dating the oldest sister, who has abandoned the herd for a life in the city—one little girl watching the movie turned to her mother and asked: "Why do they hate him?" Bright children need not await answers.

After the vomiting scenes, the plot grows more asinine. Finally, Cheaper by the Dozen renders its feeble message. A lost sibling is found, and, as the pack of preteens surrounds the kid, they half-heartedly express their affection. When the kid questions their sincerity, the grade-schooler who talks like Eminem explains that, minus a sibling, there would only be eleven of them. And that is what passes for brotherly love in a picture that squanders its richest talents.


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