Cheaper By The Dozen

2003, Movie, PG, 98 mins

Review

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Very loosely based on the classic children's book and the 1950 film, this modern comedy of extreme parenting is a generally amusing — if occasionally overly sentimental — look at the tribulations of raising 12 children. Tom (Steve Martin) and Kate Baker (Bonnie Hunt) met in college when he was a football player and she was a sports reporter. They bonded over a mutual desire to raise a large family while pursuing their professional ambitions but, 12 bundles of joy later, they've had to sacrifice some of their dreams and relocate from Chicago to rural Illinois. Eldest daughter Nora (Piper Perabo), 22, has moved out, but with 11 others still at home, the Baker family operates in a state of controlled chaos. Still, Kate and Tom seem to take everything in stride and do their best to attend to their diverse brood's various needs. Then Tom is offered his dream job as head football coach at his alma mater; the family relocates to Chicago, but the Baker boys and girls have a hard time adjusting to city life, and getting less attention than ever from their dad brings out the worst in them. Things deteriorate further when Kate's memoirs are published and she's booked onto a promotional tour. Tom begs Nora and her live-in boyfriend, model/actor Hank (the uncredited Ashton Kutcher), to lend a hand, but the younger kids torture Hank, and Tom is left trying to balance his new career and family responsibilities all alone. Martin delivers the same frantic and slightly overwhelmed father performance he used in PARENTHOOD (1989) and the FATHER OF THE BRIDE movies, but Hunt shines as the stable center of this out-of-control family. Though Tom Welling, Hilary Duff (moody eldest son Charlie and fashion-obsessed teen Lorraine) and Perabo are supposed to be the film's young stars, their thinly written characters leave Kutcher free to make more of his screen time than the three of them put together. The rest of the Baker kids, though cute, are almost indistinguishable, cliched quirks notwithstanding. The sole exception is red-haired Forrest Landis, who's absolutely adorable as the shy family misfit whose best friend is a frog. leave a comment --Angel Cohn

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