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.
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.
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
'Name Only' Remake of 1950 Classic is Warm, Funny Film...
While the CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN opening titles credit the authors of the best-selling book the original 1950 film was based on (Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey), don't expect to see a remake of the charming, early-20th century comedy about two efficiency experts (Clifton Webb and Myrna Loy) running a complex but happy family...and this is not a BAD thing!
While the 1950 production is a minor classic, the thrust of the earlier film was with the parents, and oldest daughter (the late Jeanne Crain). Clifton Webb was a gifted, acerbic actor, best known, previously, as 'child hating' author Lynn Belvedere, who proved he was as adept at raising children as he was at EVERYTHING he attempted, in the 1948 hit, SITTING PRETTY. The film was such a success that two sequels were made, and Webb would do several more 'family' comedies before his death in 1966. Playing Frank Bunker Gilbreth, the father of twelve, was a 'natural' for the actor, and the 61-year old Webb 'stole' the film with his self-effacing, 'scientific' approach to child rearing. As his wife, Lillian, Myrna Loy, who had graduated from being 'Nora Charles' in the "Thin Man" series, to being Hollywood's favorite wife/mom, shared Bonnie Hunt's sweetness, sense of organization, and dry humor, but lacked a sexual chemistry with Webb that would have actually produced twelve children (perhaps because of the less 'permissive' time the film was made, or perhaps because of Webb's screen persona). Jeanne Crain, one of 20th Century Fox's favorite ingénues for over six years, had a large fan base, which the studio capitalized on (She was actually second-billed in the film, behind Webb). Her scene at a 1920's prom, with Webb as her 'date', is a film highlight. While the eleven other children were given 'moments' in the film, they barely registered, individually.
Would 2003 audiences have gone to see Martin in a period comedy set eighty years earlier? I doubt it. And had the original story had been simply 'updated', would it have been truly faithful to the source, even in spirit? Unlikely, as so much has changed over the years. Ultimately, the film makers erred, I believe, in using the title of the earlier film, but not in the approach of making a 'family-friendly' comedy about a household of massive proportions.
With Steve Martin, who has become Hollywood's quintessential 'Dad', as a loving, unconventional father/football coach given an opportunity to head his alma mater's team, he displays the same kind of sensitivity that made PARENTHOOD such a wonderful film. Bonnie Hunt, as his wife, is completely believable as a successful author who could handle her large family and still-frisky husband equally well. She is, as always, a treasure!
The children are really the stars of the film, though, and each is special, and individual, from the eldest daughter (Piper Perabo), who, at 22, wants the family to accept the guy she's living with (Ashton Kutcher, in a funny, brief role), to the youngest pair of twins (Brent and Shane Kinsman), who make an art out of wreaking havoc. Tom Welling is quite likable, and proves that he is more than just 'Clark Kent' (For you trivia fans, Kutcher almost got the part of 'Superman' in an upcoming film, which would have put two 'Men of Steel' in the cast). The only discordant note is Hillary Duff's annoyingly brittle second daughter; she may be a 'teen idol', but she is more grating than endearing.
Director Shawn Levy's previous film, JUST MARRIED, was a loud, unpleasant, clichéd bore; in CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN, he redeems himself with a more enjoyable, richer film.
While the movie will never earn the 'classic' status the earlier film achieved, it stands very well on it's own merits!
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