Disgraced Navy SEAL Shane Wolfe is handed a new assignment: Protect the five Plummer kids from enemies of their recently deceased father -- a government scientist whose top-secret experiment remains in the kids' house.
Identical twins Annie and Hallie, separated at birth and each raised by one of their biological parents, later discover each other for the first time at summer camp and make a plan to bring their wayward parents back together.
The Bakers, a family of 14, move from small-town Illinois to the big city after Tom Baker gets his dream job to coach his alma mater's football team. Meanwhile, his wife also gets her dream of getting her book published. While she's away promoting the book, Tom has a hard time keeping the house in order while at the same time coaching his football team, as the once happy family starts falling apart. Written by
Tom (Steve Martin) and Kate Baker (Bonnie Hunt) have a Baker's dozen--children, that is. When Tom, a football coach, gets a job offer to coach a college football team just outside of Chicago, and Kate's book about raising 12 children finally gets a publishing offer, they see bright things for their future. The only problem is that their 12 children do not want to move from their rural Illinois home, and things become nearly disastrous when Kate has to leave for a couple weeks to promote her book.
While I didn't enjoy Cheaper By The Dozen as much as the original version of the film from 1950, the 2003 "re-imagining" is still a 9 out of 10 for me (the original was a 10 out of 10 for me). It's a re-imagining rather than a remake because although the overall plot arc has some similarities, these are two very different films, with very different messages, and very different kinds of families. Both are rather cartoonish, which works for me--I don't require much realism in my films. For anyone who is looking for something primarily believable, Cheaper By The Dozen may not fit the bill.
The major change from the original to the new film is a change from control to near-chaos. In the Baker's case, it doesn't take long to realize that the chaos arises from their lack of disciplining their children. While this may not be realistic (surely anyone planning to have a family this large would realize that discipline and control would be necessary to not have one's home destroyed), it does lead to a lot of comic situations, and that's really the point here. Yes, there is a message in the end about putting family first, but what director Shawn Levy really wants you to do is laugh. My wife and I laughed quite a bit while watching the film, so Levy accomplished his goal with us. My only slight complaint on this end was that some of the funniest material involved the eldest Baker daughter's boyfriend, Hank (Ashton Kutcher), and he just wasn't in the film enough. The material about the Shenk's, neighbors of the Baker's, was also funny and a bit underused. This was the reason for lowering my score 1 point.
The rest of the cast is good, although like the original Cheaper By The Dozen, we barely get to know some of the children, but that's understandable when we have to deal with 14 characters as well as ancillary characters. Steve Martin was excellent, as always (I enjoy his work in even his less popularly appreciated films), and although Hilary Duff (as daughter Lorraine Baker) seemed a bit odd in the context of the family, I enjoyed her performance a lot, also. There's something about her that I like, and it's not just her looks.
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