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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 19.19%
Average: 17.17%
Pretty Bad: 22.22%
Total Crap: 17.17%

5 reviews, 69 user ratings

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Cheaper by the Dozen (2003)
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by EricDSnider

"An altogether charming and funny family film -- with no fart jokes!"
4 stars

"Cheaper by the Dozen" is a proud proponent of what they used to call "family values," before that phrase came to be used only ironically. Its central characters, the Bakers, are a family with 12 children, none of whom, not even the teenagers, ever expresses embarrassment over being from such an unusually large brood. The film declares family to be more important than anything else, and demonstrates vividly how difficult things can get when one parent is absent. The grown-up daughter who visits home may bring her boyfriend, but she is not permitted to share a bedroom with him.

Normally, a family like this would be the butt of jokes, the ultra-religious next-door neighbors, like the Flanderses on "The Simpsons." But not here. The Bakers never mention religion; they had a dozen kids because, well, they love kids; and everyone manages to stay clean, well-adjusted and decent. They are an ordinary family, except in their numbers. The freak family, in fact, is the Bakers' upscale neighbors the Shenks, who only have ONE kid, and he's an over-protected basket case.

Sharing a title and almost nothing else with an old book, play and 1952 film, "Cheaper by the Dozen" is light and charming and a perfect movie to take the kids to. Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt, two of the most likable actors I know of, play Tom and Kate Baker, college sweethearts who always wanted a big family and who got it in spades. Their oldest, Nora (Piper Perabo), is 22 and out of the house; their youngest are twin boys, Nigel and Kyle (Brent and Shane Kinsman), age 4. The gang in between runs the gamut: rebellious teen Charlie (Tom Welling), shallow teen Lorraine (Hilary Duff), tomgirl Sarah (Alyson Stoner), chubby Henry (Kevin G. Schmidt), misfit Mark (Forrest Landis), hockey player Jake (Jacob Smith), and a bunch of others with enough personality quirks to differentiate them from their siblings.

Tom is offered his dream job of coaching a Division I college football team, but it means moving the family from rural Midland, Ill., to a nice Chicago suburb, and it means he suddenly has less time to spend with the kids. Almost simultaneously, Kate is given a shot at her dream, too: The book she wrote about raising 12 kids is being published, and she's being sent on a publicity tour. Can Tom, who is already becoming an absentee father, handle a football team AND the kids while she's gone?

This is a film whose plot devices are old but whose performances are fresh and full of life. Martin and Hunt are both on familiar ground. His overwhelmed-but-easy-going dad bit comes from "Parenthood" (1989), and she has her harried-but-quick-witted mom thing down to a science from her current TV sitcom, not to mention her turn in "Stolen Summer" (2002), the little-seen film that was the product of HBO's first "Project Greenlight." Hunt, in particular, is a glowing presence in "Cheaper by the Dozen," firing off her zingers in a manner both sharp and motherly.

Among the children, the performances are not cloying or irritating, which is a high compliment for child actors. They are cute, sweet and/or mischievous, as the situation requires. (Hilary Duff, at 16, still qualifies as a child, I guess, which makes her shrill, self-aware performance an exception to what I just said.)

The film's overall appeal is in the details, most precisely in what lesser films would have included that this one does not. Two of the kids vomit, but we're only subjected to a brief glimpse of the actual stuff. There's not a fart joke to be found anywhere, setting it apart from virtually every other family film of the past five years. Tom, busy with work, neglects his kids in the traditional ways, except the we are spared the usually inevitable scene of him missing an important baseball game or piano recital. In a similar vein, though Mrs. Shenk (Paula Marshall) and Tom's old friend Shake (Richard Jenkins) clearly have a disdain for children, there is no scene where they get their "hilarious" comeuppance via having goop dumped on their heads or by falling into a mud puddle.

The film is credited to four writers. Alec Sokolow and Joel Cohen have "Toy Story" (1995) to their credit, as well as next year's sure-to-suck "Garfield" film. Sam Harper wrote the charming "Rookie of the Year" (1993) and this year's modestly entertaining "Just Married." Craig Titley, rounding out the bunch, sadly has "See Spot Run" and "Scooby-Doo" (2002) to his debit. What does it all mean? Nothing, I suppose, except that we have four writers who will not win Academy Awards but who can slap together a crowd-pleaser when called upon to do so, and some of those crowd-pleasers are actually sorta good.

The director is Shawn Levy, whose last two films, "Just Married" and "Big Fat Liar" (2002), also were better than you'd expect and also had a child-like charm to them. (I praised "Just Married" for having a smattering of family values, too.) Here, he steps it up a notch. The point of the whole film is that one's family is more important than anything else, both as a support system and as a source of comedy. We see wholesome entertainment fairly often, but it's rare, and therefore refreshing, to see a film that is not just squeaky-clean in content, but in its very philosophy. The fact that it's also a funny, warm, entertaining film is almost just icing on the cake.

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originally posted: 12/25/03 11:13:13
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User Comments

12/05/11 Pamela White Remake not near as funny or endearing as the origional 3 stars
4/28/08 Totir Alexandru This was a very good comedy. I laughed a lot. 4 stars
12/30/06 Kati Truly one of the worst films ever concieved, enjoyed only by tweenies and idiots 1 stars
10/24/06 Drew G I could only hope the original was better 1 stars
10/17/06 Tiffany funny, loved this movie. Haven't seen the original. 5 stars
10/08/06 isis funny but kinda borin... 3 stars
10/03/06 Alfred Guy Well . . . my kids like it. I found it a bit lame. 3 stars
10/01/06 michael pretty fair 3 stars
9/29/06 David Pollastrini had nothing to do with the original 4 stars
8/23/06 Joe This, like "Are We There Yet?", makes me never want to have any kids, let alone 12 of 'em. 1 stars
4/29/06 sahm Terrible ending. Dad gives up dream for bratty kids. 2 stars
4/08/06 Frank Rountree A good film for watching with your family 3 stars
3/28/06 Brian Meyer The "too many kids" thing went out with "The Little Rascals". The T.V. Show. 1 stars
2/06/06 Anthony Feor A very good family film 4 stars
9/18/05 tony The Best film ever! 5 stars
8/18/05 ES Are we really supposed to believe that a set of parents with 12 kids looks that good? 2 stars
7/08/05 Katelyn it was a very good movie 4 stars
5/29/05 Jake Unrealistic garbage! All the kids are steryotypical Brats! Terrible! 1 stars
5/09/05 aery totally ausome 5 stars
4/28/05 Dan Pretty good 4 stars
2/21/05 xxplosive You know what your going to get with this movie, and it is good to watch with kids. 3 stars
1/30/05 gina Good family movie. Especially to teach a valuable point! 5 stars
12/16/04 Brent I will never watch another Steve Martin movie ever again 1 stars
11/02/04 NATASHA I thougth this film deserved 4 stras it was witty modern classsic comedy with quite a few b 5 stars
9/14/04 Cobretti A group of selfish, bratty kids combined with slapstick nonsense and zero laughs. AVOID!!! 1 stars
8/04/04 Katie This movie is good, and the cast is great! I love the little twins, they're SO cute! 4 stars
5/31/04 Nobody Does not deserve title;is nothing like book. Duff is evil. 2 stars
5/20/04 Jorge The family have 12 kid and just with dad,while the mother leave.Briliant! 2 stars
5/20/04 Samuel If your older than 10 you wont enjoy it. 1 stars
5/18/04 Idiot's Mouth Yet another movie that requires complete stupidity in order to work. Crap! 1 stars
5/15/04 Jenny Tullwartz C'mon, EricDSnider, gimme fart humor over dog-almost-bites-off-genitalia "humor" any day! 3 stars
5/13/04 David Very charming and heartwarming, and funny as well. 5 stars
5/05/04 Zonia Duenas This movie is the best I just love all the actors 5 stars
5/02/04 Natasha Caminero I loved it and I love you Jacob Smith 5 stars
4/30/04 jessica it's one of the best movies i've seen. my friends all love it too. 5 stars
4/25/04 Carla hilarious, few round characters, but how could you manage that with 12 main characters? 5 stars
4/19/04 Don't want fart humor, Eric? Gimme a break! It's got the fabulous Hilary Duff! 'Twould be awesome if she farted! 3 stars
4/18/04 Jake I Hate Hillary Duff so very much, and Steve Martin should be very ashmed of himeslf 1 stars
4/17/04 Gobsmack It's KA-RAZY! But it's not at all FUH-UNNY! Martin can do so much better. 1 stars
4/14/04 Chris I thought it was one of the best family films ever! Bonnie Hunt is so great, watch her show 5 stars
3/26/04 Alfred Guy OK. But isn't Steve Martin trying too hard? 3 stars
3/24/04 Harlan Since it is about the Baker family, shouldn't there be a Baker's dozen? 4 stars
3/23/04 So you didn't like Hilary Duff's performance, Eric? Even so, Hilary's such a sight for sore eyes, I'll forgive her for almost anything! 4 stars
3/22/04 Tiffany Faye Hawthorne C'mon, EricDSnider, give me fart humor over dog-almost-bites-off-genitalia humor any day! 3 stars
3/21/04 Jenny Tullwartz (I the F_CK write some of them) Can't decide between being comedy or morality play; comedy parts often good. 4 stars
3/11/04 thejames Who the F_CK writes these other comments?? 1 stars
3/08/04 movieguy a great film 5 stars
1/27/04 emily it was way funnt and i would go and see it again anytime 5 stars
1/20/04 Brian Herrick this movie sucks if your not into the inmature slapstick type humor. Poor steve martin. 1 stars
1/20/04 Jordan Booth and kate Fox We think that the movie is really great! By the way where did Alyson get the frog hat? 5 stars
1/20/04 ayley Its cool 5 stars
1/19/04 Kitty B. i luv steve martin!!! 5 stars
1/15/04 Betty White Like an episode of "The Brady Bunch"....only worse. 1 stars
1/12/04 Ashley Crider It Was Asome I Like Hilary Duff 5 stars
1/11/04 Lauren Jake on the film is sooo darn cute! 5 stars
1/11/04 Natalie Salata It was great. But it could have been better. 4 stars
1/10/04 Mark H-V Hillary did so good as her character 5 stars
1/09/04 maniac magge that move was de bomb 5 stars
1/08/04 kick ass of dont come home hilary duff is britney spears lezbian lover 1 stars
1/06/04 monica a good film 4 stars
1/04/04 Aurelia this movie was really funny!! piper rocks!! 5 stars
1/02/04 Nick Perhaps the worst movie I had seen in a long time. Why did I HATE it? a dozon reasons 1 stars
12/31/03 movieboy Good Movie thought it was Funny wouldn't have been as good though without Bonnie Hunt 4 stars
12/29/03 I saw it Come on, buster! Why are you so uptight? What were you expecting, "King Lear?" Hysterical. 3 stars
12/28/03 robin sooooooo good!!! 5 stars
12/28/03 Boombah Baby Lame remake with nothing new on offer 1 stars
12/27/03 Two-G - horror_blood2 (aka Double G) (1 G) Hillary make me horny!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
12/25/03 Secondcousinofbonnie This is a well-acted and wittily written movie (but I am a tad biased) 5 stars
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  25-Dec-2003 (PG)
  DVD: 06-Apr-2004



Directed by
  Shawn Levy

Written by
  Craig Titley
  Sam Harper

  Steve Martin
  Bonnie Hunt
  Ashton Kutcher
  Hilary Duff
  Piper Perabo
  Missy Elliott

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