Cheaper By The Dozen


Directed by: Shawn Levy
Written by:Sam Harper, Joel Cohen, Alec Sokolow
Starring: Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt, Piper Perabo, Tom Welling, Hilary Duff, Ashton Kutcher
Released: January 8, 2004
Grade: C+

There are few laughs to be had in Steve Martin’s new comedy, Cheaper By The Dozen.  In fact, I can’t remember exuding more than a sarcastic chuckle at any time during the hour and a half.  This to me is a big problem.  Steve Martin hosted last year’s Academy Awards and I was in hysterics at some of his great out-liners.  Why then is he not funny here?  Simply put, the script is not up to scratch.

Tom (Martin) and Kate (Hunt) live in the country with, as the title tells us, a dozen kids.  It’s exhausting work and they have both sacrificed dreams and given up better work opportunities to keep the family happy together.  Finally though, a window has opened up for both.  Tom has always wanted to coach his college’s football team and an old friend has called upon him for the job.  The problem being that the family will have to move to Chicago and they are none too pleased with the idea.

Within days of the family moving, Kate receives a call from a publisher with the exciting news that her first ever book is to be put into print.  The publisher asks that she go to New York for three days so that details regarding the soon-to-be best seller can be ironed out.  She’s reluctant to leave Tom alone with the kids but he guarantees he can handle the situation and off she goes.

The plot from here dictates that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.  Tom is required to work long hours coaching but the kids need him at home.  Soon, the newspapers are publishing articles questioning his ability to juggle the responsibility.  The kids too are having a rough time.  They are struggling to find friends at their new school and even the eldest are subject to bullying.  The pressure is mounting on Tom to put things right but can he give up his lifelong dream for the sake of the family?  Need I answer this?

This is a G-rated flick so there it’s pretty cut-and-dry.  I like my comedies with a bit more edge and the most apt way of describing this film is that it would be perfect to take my grandmother to see.  What I mean is that the jokes are simple, there’s nothing controversial, there’s some sappy sentimentality, and there’s a happy ending.  There are many out there who enjoy such a movie (including myself sometimes) but as I have already indicated, this isn’t good enough.

It saddens me to say that Steve Martin is the weakest of the cast.  It’s painful to watch him rely on poor jokes and then use zany facial expressions in trying to entertain.  As his wife, Bonnie Hunt was far superior in the acting stakes.  To woo younger audiences, young heartthrobs Piper Perabo, Hilary Duff, Tom Welling and a surprisingly enjoyable Ashton Kutcher have been included amongst the cast.  You won’t see a lot of them but they’re there nonetheless.

Some other critics have made point of the strange inconsistencies in Cheaper By The Dozen with the most obvious being that of salaries.  A job as a college football coach can’t pay that well and yet the family has a very comfortable lifestyle and lives in a mansion with 11 bedrooms in a well-off neighbourhood.  Does this add up?  No.  Once again, the weakness of the script has been exposed.  It’s the tickets themselves for this film which should be cheaper by the dozen.  Much cheaper.