Cheaper by the Dozen: Movie Review
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Special Notes: Liliana Mumy plays Jessica, a cute girl with red hair who happens to be the daughter of Billy Mumy (he was the red headed kid from the show Lost in Space).
Plot: This is a remake of the 1950 classic about a modern couple who do a very old fashioned thing -- they have twelve children. Mary (Hunt) and Tom Baker (Martin) are great parents who have put their careers, hopes and dreams on hold so that they can give their kids a balanced and parent-involved life. Except for the eldest daughter, 22 year old Anne (Perabo), who is out of the house and living with a selfish, self-centered boyfriend (Kutcher) against the wishes of her parents, the rest of the family face another dilemma. Tom gets a new coaching job at a large university in the city so the family ends up moving to the suburbs and setting up a new life. Mary finally finishes her book about her brood and is then whisked away on a whirlwind book tour. With the new lifestyle demands on Mary and Tom, the rest of the family begin to feel neglected and soon a plot is hatched by the kids to get their parents, and their old life back.
Good: A natural recipe for fun and laughter is the pairing of Bonnie Hunt and Steve Martin. The two never fail to bring a laugh to almost every scene theyre in and their talents, combined with a cast of kids of all ages, make for lots of family levity and laughs. Amongst the kids there are a few big names in the bunch (Perabo, Welling, Kutcher, Duff) but it was nice to see an ensemble where the feeling of family comes through instead of star power. Kids will relate with some of the antics the children perform on each other and adults will relate to the many dilemmas career minded parents go through in trying to spend time with your family. I found the crux of the Bakers problem -- not being able to find someone to care for their kids while Tom pursued the better-paying coaching job (that he had dreamed of doing all his life) and Mary continuing her book tour, a bit of a stretch. Tom cant find a baby-sitter for the younger kids and has to bring them with him to work and/or bring the football team home with him so that the kids could be watched which of course, ultimately jeopardizes his job. Although the scenarios are played for laughs and the sitter-situation is what creates the problems in the movie, I found it hard to buy. As tough as they make the daddy day-care situation to be, it just isnt THAT hard to find baby-sitters or help these days. And for a family that has at least three sitter aged kids who could have pitched in and watched the kids as a team, somehow that option of sibling-sitting was never used. (Isnt that a side benefit of having a lot of kids? That you have built-in babysitters?) The kids rebel against their parents career choices and Mary and Tom are (almost) portrayed as being selfish for pursuing them and thats where I take issue with the message of the movie. Theres a huge difference between parents who are workaholics and climb the corporate ladder for their own glory and gratification while neglecting their kids, and parents needing to work at two good-paying jobs to raise their 12 kids in a nice home and neighborhood. In the end, the overall message of the movie is a positive one about family sacrificing for the sake of family. A message this younger generation (and parents) probably need to hear more of! Without making blatant speeches, its clear that this family is a religious family. Using humorous, subtle remarks like, Say the rosary!, or when the 22 year-old daughter sneaks her boyfriend (that shes living with) into the house overnight (nothing is shown-only implied) Tom confronts the two with, This is a G rated house! and scolds them for spending the night together. I enjoyed a particular conversation between the kids involving Easter and what defines the term resurrection. There are a few side-plots that involve; a bully at school, one of the kids feels unloved and runs away and Tom and the kids deal with a judgmental neighbor.
Bad: For the most part this movie is family friendly but unfortunately there are a few crude words and a profanity thrown in (from an irate coach who chides Tom) that ruins this otherwise wholesome movie. The kids dislike their older sisters boyfriend (Kutcher) so theres a scene where they play a prank on their him by placing a scent of meat on his pants. Immediately their hungry dog makes a beeline for the meat-smelling pants and unintentionally bites the boyfriend in the crotch. The scene is played for laughs and is more on the funny side than rude and afterwards, the kids are punished for their prank. And something thats not bad but instead curious, is Hunts straight-to-curly look. Its almost like you can tell when different scenes were shot at different times because her hairstyle changes from straight to curly in almost the same scenes.
Bottom Line: This is a perfect family movie to see and then afterwards talk about how your family relates (or differs) as far as values, responsibilities and kid-dilemmas are concerned. This 'bakers dozen' never comes up short but instead, delivers a satisfying and entertaining comedy all ages will enjoy.
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