Movie review: ‘Cheaper by the Dozen 2’

The other day I looked at the sequel to a remake (“Ocean’s Thirteen” – click here for my review) and remarked that “Cheaper by the Dozen 2” was one of the done-rights but not up to the quality of “Ocean’s Thirteen.” I watched “Cheaper by the Dozen 2” again (and have since again as I’m updating this review in 2017), and while I didn’t change my mind, I’m continuing to give it better marks than I would have just on memory alone before my original review. It is a fun, family-friendly movie that avoids all the potholes left by stereotypes and oldie-but-goody plotlines. Check out Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt as the mom and dad – they’re those perfect movie parents who every kid fantasizes about having. “Cheaper by the Dozen 2” is easy to find and you might appreciate it a bit more with another viewing.

‘Cheaper by the Dozen 2’
(2005; 94 minutes; rated PG; directed by Adam Shankman and starring Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt and Eugene Levy)

FOR THE SAKE OF ALL 20 CHILDREN

(NOTE: I expanded this review with some more opinion, additional trivia and the updating of links on June 16, 2017.)

The title might be “Cheaper by the Dozen 2,” but the two families in this one have 20 kids combined and there’s just a never-ending litany of scrapes, incidents, kerfuffles and assorted hijinks from them. However, despite the stereotypes, “Cheaper by the Dozen 2” will leave you with a smile and not insult your intelligence – unless you’re not able to suspend even a little bit of disbelief.

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This sequel follows two years after Steven Martin and Bonnie Hunt appeared in the remake of “Cheaper by the Dozen” in 2003. It was a family-friendly hit with a sequel sure to follow. “Cheaper by the Dozen 2” takes the “Baker” family to the next level: With their oldest daughter pregnant and about to move to Houston, a son wanting to move away from the family and another daughter graduating high school, Martin believes an old-fashioned family vacation at the lake is just the ticket.

Cheaper by the Dozen 2” follows the antics of the kids as the family arrives at the lake and Martin, playing “Tom Baker,” picks up his lifelong competition with Eugene Levy, who plays “Jimmy Murtaugh” and is now a multi-millionaire businessman who is buying all the lakefront property.

It’s a tall order of plot filled both with shenanigans and a huge cast, but it’s all handled well and efficiently without appearing to be forced too much. It would have been very easy to fall into milquetoast filmmaking with some of the tired plotlines (say, fireworks ruining a club dinner), but director Adam Shankman does a nice job of doing it right and not just what is expedient.

The single thing I like best about “Cheaper by the Dozen 2” is that it is a “nice” film. There’s no profanity; nudity; ongoing aggression; or any crass profanity that passes for entertainment today. Yes, it is “nice” … and that’s a big seller in this day and age of CGI wonder (the Earth doesn’t crumble in this one and destruction is kept a minimum) and dark, malevolent stories of degradation or just rank stupidity. I like dark drama (try “Panic” – click here for my review – or “You Kill Me” – click here for my review – or “A History of Violence” – click here for my review), but it disgusts me when a solid film gets the “family” or “nice” label and shunted aside.

So, back to what happens in “Cheaper by the Dozen 2.”

The conflict and competition between Martin and Levy has them squaring off in a competition over which one’s shirt was the deepest color. Actually, all their kids (the “Bakers” have a dozen … get it?) get along famously and each family’s kids believe the other family’s children have it better: Martin’s kids like Levy’s family money, while Levy’s like Martin’s more laid-back and family-friendly style of parenting (over the pushy, driving and high-achieving demands from their dad).

Along the way the “Baker” kids manage to disrupt a lake club social event with fireworks and destroy priceless china during a brunch at Levy’s home. At the same time the oldest children of each family are falling in love and a middle child in each are coming of age and attracted to each other.

The whole mess winds up in a Labor Day family competition that breaks up when Levy’s family deserts him and Martin’s daughter goes into labor. Of course they all wind up together, settle their differences and begin to live happily ever after.

Here’s a rundown of the best performances in a VERY large cast:

  • Martin does his usual “father” routine here and is as affable, emotionally clumsy and loving as he was in “Father of the Bride” and its sequel. He doesn’t quite meet his work in “Parenthood” (click here for my review), but finding fault in this kind of fun flick would be a bit nitpicky. Martin has also been in “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” as well as “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” (click here for my review).
  • Actually, the best acting is by Levy. He is simply wonderful as the driven, egotistical braggart who believes the sun rises and sets on the family he has created. From a smirk to a sly smile to simply his voice, Levy is in command here. He’s even better than he was as the father in “American Pie” and its franchise. Levy has done excellent work in “Splash” (click here for my review) and as different characters in each of the “Father of the Bride” films.
  • I wanted to see Hunt, who plays “Kate Baker,” do as well as she did in “Jumanji” with Robin Williams (click here for my review). Well, it didn’t happen and while she is competent, Hunt does only OK except for a short scene with one of the kids who gets caught shoplifting. Hunt has also been in “The Green Mile” and had her own self-titled syndicated talk show on TV from 2008-2010.
  • Carmen Electra surprises here with a nice turn as “Sarina Murtaugh,” who is the very much younger third wife of Levy. Electra doesn’t set the screen on fire (although she certainly is beautiful) but does show earnestness and a bit of strength of character you might not expect from “Sarina.” She has also been in “Scary Movie” and the movie version of “Starsky & Hutch.”
  • Tom Welding plays “Charlie Baker” and Jamie King plays “Anne Murtaugh” and are the families’ older children and they begin a relationship here that disappoints each father on some level. Both actors are competent and good to look at, but don’t manage to elevate themselves from the pack. Welding has headlined TV’s “Smallville” and this year’s “Draft Day” (click here for my review) while King has been in “Sin City” and co-stars on TV’s “Hart of Dixie.”
  • Hilary Duff as “Lorraine Baker” and Piper Perabo as the pregnant “Nora Baker-McNulty” do good jobs, especially Duff as she helps guide one sister with some makeup and advice as the younger girl’s about to head out on her first date (more on this in a minute). Duff has been TV’s “Lizzie McGuire” as well as in films such as “Bloodworth.” Perabo was in the film “Coyote Ugly” and is the headliner in TV’s “Covert Affairs” as it is in its final season right now.

However, the best pairing of kids in the film are Alyson Stoner as “Sarah Baker” and Taylor Lautner as “Eliot Murtaugh.” Both are middle children who are just becoming attracted to the opposite sex. Stoner is especially vulnerable because of her tomboy past and gets nabbed shoplifting makeup. At the same time, Lautner does a good job of not appearing too much in puppy dog love and the two have great scenes together from just a moment to their movie date where the two dads wind up making a scene. Stoner has been in “Step Up” and this year’s “The A-List” while you know Lautner best as “Jacob Black” from “The Twilight” franchise.

Cheaper by the Dozen 2” was the 25th ranked film at the U.S. box office in 2005 with $82.5 million in ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo. Worldwide it made $135 million on its $60 million budget, according to Wiki. “Cheaper by the Dozen 2” came in just behind “Monster-in-Law” (click here for my review) at 23rd with $82.9 million and the No. 1 film of the year was “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith” with $380.2 million. Other films from 2005 that I’ve reviewed are:

Assorted cast notes (via IMDb.com):

  • Shankman, who is the director, has a bit part as the “clam bake chef.” Other films he has directed include the very good remake in 2007 of “Hairspray” and also not quite as good “The Pacifier.”
  • Directly from com: “When the “Cheaper by the Dozen” movies were made, neither Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt, who played the parents of 12 children, had ever had a child in real life. Steve Martin first became a father years later in February of 2013 when his wife Anne Stringfield gave birth to his first child.”
  • Finally and directly from IMDb.com: “Real baby and childhood pictures of Hilary Duff and Alyson Stoner were used for the ‘photo albums’ of their characters.”

© Chuck Curry and A Gator in Naples, 2014, 2015 and 2017.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without
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