In the grand tradition of family-focused holiday films,
Hollywood dipped into the vault for a remake of the 1950s film
“Cheaper by the Dozen.” The story has been given a
millennial update with Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt, who both
deliver charming performances, at the helm as the effervescent
parents of a group of equally energetic children.

Kate Green
Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
I like football on TV, Steve Martin … and twins!
Kate Green
Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
I am a wild and crazy guy.

As two parents who gave up their respective careers to raise an
ever-growing group of youngsters, Tom Baker (Martin) is offered his
dream job of coaching his alma mater’s football team and
decides to attempt city life with his hodgepodge of children. The
transition from country life is exacerbated by the demands of
Division-I coaching on their father.

The film captures the chaos of living in a family with 12
siblings and manages to personalize the children while never
compromising the narrative. Some children stand out more than
others, partially due to casting decisions and partially due to the
reality of family. Hilary Duff plays the second-oldest daughter, a
snarky pseudo-fashionista who is basically Lizzie McGuire. Tom
Welling is the conflicted son who can’t stand the big city or
his parents and Forrest Landis is “FedEx,” the child a
deliveryman dropped off. Every personality stereotype is filled,
from tomboy to inseparable twins.

Slapstick is expected in a family film like this, but at times
the movie uses one gag too many and you remember who the target
audience is. When Bonnie Hunt leaves for a book tour to establish
her career, Martin shows himself as an utterly inept father which,
of course, provides most of the laughs. The family’s
activities quickly become a strong case for child welfare until mom
quits and remedies the situation. The message is unbridled in its
praise of family and the overlying optimism makes for good
wholesome fare.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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