If secondhand embarrassment were a thing, I’d say I felt it while I watched this film. The film is written by a Hollywood has-been starring Hollywood wannabes. The film is filled with crude language, sexual content, and violence.
It is thrown in to induce cheap laughs from its audience. This forces the question- was there really no other way to make us laugh? More importantly, was there really a need for a sequel?
1. Article Summary
Steve Martin was known to be one of Hollywood’s wittiest comic actors. In the eighties, that is. The danger of playing a certain trope repeatedly comes with the actor’s risk of typecasting in the niche he creates.
Or, in Martin’s case, the grave he digs. With the 1989 film Parenthood, two things were made clear to him- the trope of large families in comedies work and they are where his future lay.
With a series of lackluster films that shouldn’t be called remakes for the disservice, it does to the original, including the likes of Father of The Bride (1991), Sgt Bilko (1996), and now Cheaper By The Dozen (2003) and its sequel (2005), this film has been doomed from the start.
The plot of the film to the millennial child is somewhat Grownups-esque. The film picks up two years after the first one. Feeling nostalgic and slightly insecure about their children moving on with their lives, Tom Baker (Steve Martin) and his wife Kate (Bonnie Hunt) try to dispel their empty nest syndrome with a summer vacation at Lake Winnetka.
Tom’s old rival Jimmy Murtaugh (played by Eugene Levy), happens to be vacationing with his new wife, big family and bigger paycheck. The rivalry between the families gets heated quickly and as innocent pranks turn into dangerous ones, will their last vacation as a family be ruined
There are several child artists in the cast of Cheaper By the Dozen 2, with Taylor Lautner, Jaime King, Tom Welling, Hilary Duff, Robbie Amell, and Alyson Stoner. The sequel has been directed by Adam Shankman, who has an array of films largely in the arena of romantic comedies and written by Sam Harper of the first film’s fame.
The script of the film has universally been criticized over the years for its predictable, slapstick humour and emulative plot. Shankman’s direction has also come under scrutiny partly because of his juxtaposition of both relaxed and domineering parenting styles. His obsession with Carmen Electra’s cleavage means you should re-consider it’s ‘family-film’ tag.
4. Music and background score
Cheaper by the Dozen 2 includes tracks from the likes of Stevie Wonder with I wish, Joseph L. Altruda’s Graduation Song and Someday, performed by Sugar Ray.
While the score is emotive and is key in evoking all the emotions the director wants his audience to feel, it comes across as almost satirical because it is so over the top in some scenes.
Although the film itself is rather moronic, Alyson Stoner’s character of Sarah Baker is probably what stood out the most. With her stellar acting as a girl on the brink of adolescence, there was something akin to that of Reese Witherspoon’s character in The Man in the Moon (1991). A vulnerability and shy hope, perhaps. However, the rest of the film is, at best, jerky and all over the place. While the sentiment in it increases only exponentially, the plot itself dwindles into a standstill halfway through it.
6. Final thoughts
Considering the fact that the film’s target audience was families with kids in them, both the director’s and the writer’s choice to include blatant sexual objectification, violent pranks, and crude language are questionable. For example, the camera gawks as Jimmy’s new wife Sarina offers a thinly veiled double entendre, spreading her arms wide and welcoming the Bakers by saying, “Welcome to the Boulders.”
In another scene, the camera ogles and fixates on a tattoo on her back when the Murtaugh’s oldest daughter swims in a bikini. This makes the experience of watching it as a family extremely difficult and cringeworthy. The violence in the pranks the children play are no better.
A docked boat explodes because a backpack of fireworks was set off and Tom Baker’s many hard tumbles throughout the film induce winces and squirms from the audience. This makes watching the film a task. A task littered with cheap laughs in the name of entertainment.
I would only recommend this film to a person not easily offended, a high tolerance for cringe and someone into watching films for the sake of it.