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Shawn Levy
Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt, Piper Perabo, Tom Welling, Hilary Duff, Kevin Schmidt, Alyson Stoner, Jacob Smith, Liliana Mumy, Morgan York, Forrest Landis, Blake Woodruff, Brent Kinsman, Shane Kinsman
Writing Credits:
Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. (novel), Ernestine Gilbreth Carey (novel), Craig Titley, Sam Harper, Joel Cohen, Alec Sokolow

Growing pains? They've got twelve of them!

Comedy superstar Steve Martin (Bringing Down The House) and TV/film favorite Bonnie Hunt (Jerry Maguire) "couldn't be more likeable" (Leonard Maltin, "Hot Ticket") in this hilarious tale of two loving parents trying to manage careers and a household - amid the chaos of raising twelve rambunctious kids. With a crowd-pleasing supporting cast, including rising young stars Hilary Duff, Tom Welling and Piper Perabo, this heartwarming hit comedy delivers super-sized fun and laughs by the dozen!

Box Office:
$40 million.
Opening Weekend
$27.557 million on 3298 screens.
Domestic Gross
$136.665 million.

Rated PG

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Fullscreen 1.33:1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby 2.0
French Dolby 2.0

Runtime: 98 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 4/6/2004

• Audio Commentary with Director Shawn Levy
• Audio Commentary with Actors Alyson Stoner, Jacob Smith, Kevin Schmidt, Morgan York, Liliana Mumy, and Piper Perabo
• “Director’s Viewfinder: Creating a Fictional Family” Featurette
• Deleted and Extended Scenes
• “Inside Look”


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Cheaper By The Dozen (2003)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 24, 2004)

Every holiday season enjoys at least one left-field surprise hit, and for 2003, Cheaper By the Dozen took that slot. A remake of the 1950 Clifton Webb flick, it came with little hype and a modest budget of just $40 million. It would up with a final take of $135 million. That number didn’t threaten Return of the King for the season’s box office supremacy, but given the movie’s unassuming stature, it seemed way above expectations.

Dozen focuses on the Baker family. We meet father Tom (Steve Martin), mother Kate (Bonnie Hunt), and their 12 kids who range in age from five to 22. Nora (Piper Perabo) is oldest and also the only one who lives outside of the home; she moved to the city with her shallow model/actor boyfriend Hank (Ashton Kutcher).

Tom coaches Division III football at small Lincoln College, but his old teammate Shake Maguire (Richard Jenkins) offers him an upward shift. He gets the prospect to move to Division I Illinois Poly University, which is not only bigger but also his alma mater, which makes the job more appealing. The hitch? The family would have to leave their roots in semi-small town Illinois and move to a suburb of Chicago.

Led by high school senior Charlie (Tom Welling) – the star quarterback of his team – the kids resist the move. However, Tom and Kate decide the change is in the family’s best interests, so they go ahead with it anyway. Once the family arrives outside of Chicago, they go through adjustment issues. The other kids don’t accept the “hicks” of the Baker family and give them a hard time. They also figure out they’re not in Kansas when they meet their preppy neighbors, the Shenks.

Cheaper doesn’t present much of a plot, as it mainly follows the family’s issues in their new setting and how those affect them. We see Tom lose touch with the crew because of work requirements, and these also take Kate away from home for a two-week book tour when she sells a novel. This leads to comedic calamity as Tom tries to handle his rambunctious kids.

Well, at least it tries to present comedic elements, but instead, the movie feels more calamitous than funny. How can a movie take two incredibly talented performers like Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt and still turn out so terrible? To be fair, they offer the flick’s best moments. They never quite shine, but their performances seem reasonably honest and amusing, and they provide some glimmers of humor at times. I think there’s no way a movie with those two can totally avoid some funny bits; they could turn The Passion of the Christ into an amusing affair.

Unfortunately, there’s only so much they can do, and Cheaper is such a lowest common denominator flick that it seems generally unfunny and unlikable. A lot of this stems from the genuinely annoying kiddie actors. In the supplements, we hear much about how the filmmakers didn’t want the usual cutesy Hollywood kids. I guess they succeeded, as the young actors enjoy few cinematic credits. (Since Liliana Mumy is the daughter of Lost In Space star Billy, however, they can’t claim the kids stray too far from showbiz roots, though.)

However, just because the kids haven’t done much doesn’t make them more likable or engaging. Instead, they come across as little more than grating and obnoxious. Across the board, the kids are generally loud and annoying. Actually, that’s the way the whole movie works. Director Shawn Levy confuses abrasive and chaotic material for comedy, but these scenes don’t work. We see distasteful vomit gags and a lot of cheap sight gags. The kids shout and run around a lot, but they fail to develop real personalities or become even remotely likable.

That really kills the movie. If we don’t like the kids or find their antics funny, there’s nothing to make the film work. The flick likes to make out the cartoony rich kids in their new neighborhood as judgmental and condescending, but who can blame them for not liking the Bakers? The film mocks those who don’t care for the family’s sloppy and annoying ways, but I think that seems sensible. These tones make Cheaper a patronizing piece of populist tripe.

Franky, Cheaper By the Dozen offers little more than tired gags and uninspired situations. The combination of stock, undeveloped characters and cheesy sentimentality makes it a chore to watch. Cheaper really got on my nerves, as it seems like nothing other than a crummy and annoying piece of work.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus B-

Cheaper By the Dozen appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 and in a fullscreen version on this double-sided, single-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. While the image generally seemed good, a few nagging issues caused it to fall short of greatness.

Sharpness offered a slightly mixed bag. Most of the movie came across as accurate and distinctive, but some exceptions occurred. At times, the film seemed mildly ill-defined, particularly in wide shots. The softness didn’t appear heavy, but it created some minor distractions. I discerned no moiré effects or jagged edges, and edge enhancement seemed absent. Print flaws occasionally manifested themselves via some specks and grit, but these remained fairly infrequent.

For the most part, the film’s colors seemed solid. In general, the flick displayed a broad and varied palette, and the DVD replicated these tones reasonably nicely. Occasionally the hues seemed a little too saturated, but the usually seemed natural and accurate. Black levels were adequately deep and rich, and shadow detail was appropriately clear but not excessively opaque. No significant problems marred Dozen, but enough small concerns popped up to knock my grade down to a “B”.

Comedies don’t usually provide much in the audio department, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Cheaper By the Dozen fell into line with expectations. The soundfield seemed heavily oriented toward the front, but it seemed to be fairly engaging nonetheless. The forward channels presented a reasonably clean and engaging atmosphere, as the audio created a believable sound space. The music showed good stereo presence, and elements moved smoothly across the forward spectrum as they blended together neatly. Surround usage appeared fairly minor. For the most part, the rear speakers provided little more than reinforcement of the forward image. A few shots used the surrounds more actively, like during a game of indoor hockey or at the airport, but those occasions occurred infrequently.

Audio quality appeared fine. Speech remained natural and concise, with no signs of edginess or problems connected to intelligibility. Music showed nice range and clarity, and the bass response demonstrated a reasonably solid punch. Effects were bright and accurate, and they also showed good depth when appropriate. Nothing about the soundtrack stood out as exceptional, but the mix seemed decent for this sort of flick.

A mix of supplements show up for Cheaper By the Dozen. We can watch the flick with two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director Shawn Levy, who offers a running, screen-specific chat. A mix of the interesting and the banal, the commentary seems too inconsistent to become a true success.

Levy covers a number of topics. He gets into how he came onto the film, casting, sets and locations, improvisation and changes from the script, edits and shaping the story, minor effects and stunts, and a bunch of other things. Some of the better notes involve the actors, such as the contrast of the styles preferred by Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt. Levy seems lively, personable, and extremely enthusiastic from start to finish.

So why do I give his chat mixed grades? Because the guy loves to pour on the happy talk. Far too much of the time he’ll simply tell us how great the participants are and how much he loves various elements of the film. His zeal helps make these frequent bouts of praise more tolerable, but they still get tiresome. Occasional moderate patches of dead air also occur, though not often. Fans of Dozen will learn enough to make this track useful, but it falls short of greatness.

The second commentary presents actors Alyson Stoner, Jacob Smith, Kevin Schmidt, Morgan York, Liliana Mumy, and Piper Perabo. All of them sit together for a running, screen-specific discussion except for Perabo; her comments come from a separate session and get edited into the rest. More and more DVDs feature kiddie commentaries these days, and they uniformly seem unsatisfying. This one falls firmly into that category.

Don’t expect to learn much about the movie. Instead, the kids chat about all the scenes they love. Occasionally we get some minor information at times, but not much. The girls seem manic and helium-voiced as they frequently chime things like “oh my gosh – that’s a fake glass!” and sing and interrupt. Not that the piece would be interesting without their antics, but their behavior makes it more chaotic and incoherent than otherwise might be the case. Perabo pops up infrequently and tosses out a nugget of information here or there, but she doesn’t add much to the proceedings. This seems like a frantic and generally useless discussion.

On Side One, we also get a featurette called Director’s Viewfinder: Creating a Fictional Family. In this four-minute and 50-second piece, Levy discusses how he came onto the project, casting, the atmosphere on the set, and his thoughts about family films. In addition to his interviews, we see some clips from the set. The piece seems somewhat fluffy but reasonably informative given its length. The footage from the shoot offers the best parts, as we see some interesting moments.

As we go to Inside Look, an “exclusive insider’s look at upcoming projects from Fox”, we simply find a trailer for Garfield: The Movie.

When we move to Side Two, we get a collection of five deleted and extended scenes. If viewed via the “Play All” option, these fill seven minutes and 37 seconds of material. Most are brief and insubstantial, though one major addition occurs: a segment in which Eileen Brennan plays an elderly babysitter the kids seek to torment. Director Levy remarks upon the various pieces in his optional commentary. He gives us a few notes about the bits and explains why they failed to make the cut.

Since I think highly of actors Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt, I wanted to like Cheaper By the Dozen. Unfortunately, despite their best efforts, the movie seemed silly and cheesy, with many cheap gags and too much easy sentimentality. Picture and audio quality appeared good but unexceptional, while the supplements are fairly mediocre as well. One audio commentary seems decent while the other is pretty useless. A bland DVD for a weak film, I find no reason to recommend the unlikable Cheaper By the Dozen.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.1971 Stars Number of Votes: 71
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