Cheaper by the Dozen
Sound *** 1/2
Film *** 1/2
In Cheaper by the Dozen, loosely based on the 1950 film of the same title, Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt update the story to the 21st century. They star as Tom and Kate Baker, two parents striving to balance the chaos of their big family with the professional demands of their careers. When Tom is offered the job of a lifetime—as head coach of the Stallions, a Division I football team—his children are unwillingly relocated to the big city from Midland, their "favorite place in the world." While the salary spike makes it easier for Tom to support his family, ultimately it is the family who pay for his career choice. When Kate, a writer, goes on a book tour for a few days, the household falls apart: Tom must deal with sports cups in spaghetti sauce (which he calls "Pasta de la crotch"), human dartboards, and school fights.
Martin's performance is slightly reminiscent of his amusing portrayal of George Banks in the 1991 remake of Father of the Bride, with enough childlike charisma to fit any father of 12. He brings a good balance of comic banter and the requisite seriousness toward his teenage offspring. Bonnie Hunt also gives a notable performance, with her quick wit and antics—such as flipping toast, Frisbee-like, across the breakfast table. Overall, I wasn't entirely convinced that they were the parents of these dozen children; I wondered whether they were running a family or a daycare center.
Still, a nice blend of kitsch and cuteness makes this a modern and entertaining family comedy. And Cheaper features some of the finest child acting I've seen. The kids are far more sarcastic and intelligent than many of today's young actors, and it was endearing to see them stick together throughout the film, taking the blame for each other in the name of siblinghood.
The video quality is good, with virtually no artifacts or flaws, although the picture is occasionally soft and the colors aren't as vivid as I had hoped for. The audio is quite good. The bass comes through powerfully, especially when the kids bring on the pandemonium—and the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack carries the convincing sounds of breaking glass and crashing chandeliers with excellent clarity.
This release is loaded with bonuses, including actor and director commentaries, six deleted scenes, a featurette on creating a fictional family, and interactive menus. The frog icon that hops from item to item is a nice touch. The two-sided disc presents the film in both 1.85:1 and 4:3 aspect ratios.
At a time when the average family has 2.5 children and the divorce rate is over 50%, Cheaper by the Dozen provides some much-needed insight into how a family should be: stable, caring, and supportive. This warm and entertaining story is neither over-the-top cheesy nor slapstick silly, and should keep you laughing from beginning to end. Just keep the pet frogs in check and the twins out of the dog food.—ACG