Making the Grades
In 2003, Cheaper by the Dozen raised many eyebrows when it became Steve Martin's highest earning comedy. Yup, forget all those other Martin movies--Cheaper became gold when families embraced the fictional Baker clan with their many flaws and shortcomings. This success also gave 20th Century Fox more than a dozen good reasons to make a Cheaper sequel. Sporting a look that says "home video hit," it won't be a surprise if this one makes just as much money by the time it's done selling tickets in theaters and DVDs in department stores.
Reprising their roles, the entire cast has returned--and then some. Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt are still Pa and Ma Baker, along with Piper Perabo playing daughter Nora, and Smallville hunk Tom Welling as oldest son Charlie. Even Hilary Duff managed to fit this project into her busy concert schedule (although her character Lorraine is curiously absent from the middle portion of the film--perhaps she scooted off to sing a few songs in between takes).
The film offers just enough story to set up a colorful conflict. With the oldest Baker children leaving home, Tom yearns for one more chance to have the kids together for a traditional family lake vacation. Packing up the group, they rent a ramshackle cabin just across the pond from a huge "summer" mansion owned by his old school rival -- nerdy Jim Murtaugh (Eugene Levy).
While Tom was pursuing a football career, Jim became wealthy. Now, with his fourth wife Sarina (Carmen Electra) and their eight academic and sports-minded children, the successful businessman is all too generous with his advice on raising kids. Over the next few days, the two men generate considerable summer heat while they continually attempt to one-up each other, leading to the final showdown--the annual Labor Day challenge. (The Bakers have never been successful in the competition in the past.) Expecting a relaxing vacation, the kids on both sides are suddenly brought into Olympic style training, as their fathers attempt to gain the upper hand.
Needless to say, the setup has ample room for both Martin and Levy to do some physical clowning and play off each other in the way we've often seen them do. And that's the biggest flaw with this film--there really isn't anything new here. We've seen scenes of the dog destroying fancy dinners and middle-aged fathers overextending themselves too many times before. Thankfully, this time (as opposed to the first film from two years earlier) the kids really do appear to love each other, making this sequel far easier to watch and enjoy.
Content issues are limited to a couple of veiled sexual remarks--initiated mainly by Carmen Electra's not-quite-veiled-enough breasts. Appearing in a PG movie may indicate an intended midlife career change for the former Playboy model, but the creators of this film still chose to capitalize on her physical "assets" to their greatest potential by dressing her in low-cut outfits for every scene.
You'll also find the typical knocked over tables and other "accidents," as Tom does his best to make a mess of Jim's life... and house. In the end, the two are brought together with some well-scripted events, allowing for a few messages of forgiveness and burying old conflicts.
One thing this film does prove is movies are like cookies: Once you got a working recipe, it's much cheaper to make a dozen.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Cheaper by the Dozen 2.
When is competition a positive motivating force, and when does it become a problem? How were these fathers living out their own dreams through their children? Do you (or your parents) ever fall into this behavior? Why does it seem easier to try and reach our goals through others rather than ourselves?
Would you want 11 siblings? What are the pros and cons to living in a large family? How are large families usually depicted in media? Has this depiction changed in the past few years?