Projections - Movie Reviews
Cheaper by the Dozen
Cheaper by the Dozen
Starring Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt, Tom Welling, Hilary Duff,
Piper Perabo, Kevin Schmidt

Two of Shawn Levy's movies serve as broad studio bookends for 2003 Just Married and now the Christmas-time Cheaper by the Dozen. It's like a modern knock-off of the 1950 Clifton Webb-Myrna Loy film remade for Steve Martin whose recent comedic style can be seen in Bringing Down the House.

Both of Levy's films also have Ashton Kutcher, in them, albeit in a cameo form in Cheaper. His self-absorbed, unshaven character happens to be in the live-in boyfriend of football coach Tom Baker's oldest daughter Nora (Piper Perabo of Coyote Ugly). And Kutcher's "Mr Doorknob" is the victim of the film's big joke involving the family dog and underwear warmed in a vat of meat.

The screenplay, primarily concocted by Sam Harper, who wrote Just Married, considers the physical comedy which could result from such a chaotic environment presided over by Tom and wife Kate, played with a fair amount of intelligence and sensitivity by Bonnie Hunt. Life for the Bakers in the hick-town of Midland, Illinois in a quaint farmhouse is about to change when Tom accepts his dream job to coach the Stallions in Chicago. The move is tough for the kids to accept.

The L.A. based production makes good use of Napa Valley's rural look but Nina Ruscio's interior designing of the homes on two levels pulls one into the challenge of controlling the frenetic lifestyle of the Baker clan. And having Lizzie McGuire's Hilary Duff as fashion oriented sibling Lorraine complements the struggling family who are mostly concerned with their personal needs.

The experience of Martin and Hunt in comedy lends itself to some decent on-screen chemistry. Tom agrees to take care of the kids (he says he can handle it) when a publishing company picks up her memoirs, if she goes on a book tour that goes from being in New York City for three days to two weeks.

Besides Kutcher's embarrassing scene at the dinner table, some of the other large gags include Tom and a grown-up neighbor's child dangling from a chandelier after some upstairs roller-hockey. And everyone, especially dad and Lorraine wear scrambled eggs after a pet frog named Beans (his mom was Pork) went hippety-hop.

Levy underscores the spirit of teamwork, whether on the gridiron or in the home, and getting priorities right when it comes one's longtime aspirations. The slapstick which will please kids more than parents calls to mind a zany Parenthood, but the heart of this new Dozen essentially is felt best in the out-takes of a cast party.

Cheaper by the Dozen

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