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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Cheaper by the Dozen is a 2003 movie in which Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt play the parents of 12 children who try to find a way to balance their own career dreams and the responsibilities of raising their large family. The movie includes some schoolyard-style naughty words and PG-style sexual references that get close to a PG-13. When asked about his 12 children, Tom smirks about his wife: "I couldn't keep her off me." He explains that he had a vasectomy but did not wait for it to become effective, resulting in the second set of twins. And part of the plot concerns the oldest child (an adult) moving in with her boyfriend (which does not bother her parents) and whether they should be allowed to sleep together when they visit the family. Some verbal taunting from bullies. Some audience members may be offended by the portrayal of the family as vaguely Catholic, with references to Jesus and a rosary but no evidence of religious observance. There is comic peril with some minor injuries. The product placement (Crate & Barrel) is particularly (and annoyingly) intrusive.
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What's the story?
Steve Martin plays Tom Baker, a coach who is offered his dream job at his alma mater just as his wife Kate (Bonnie Hunt) hears that her book about the family has been accepted for publication. The 11 children still living at home don't want to move, but Tom promises that it will make them a stronger and happier family. But the new job is very demanding, and when Kate has to go on tour to promote the book, Tom is quickly overwhelmed by the challenges of taking care of his children.
Is it any good?
CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN is not a movie; it's a product, with a script right off the assembly line and direction on automatic pilot. Its intended audience of older tweens and teens will probably enjoy it very much. But those who care about that audience will be disappointed that the people behind this movie don't ealize that they owe those children some imagination and sincerity. The movie takes its title and family size from the classic book about the real-life Gilbreth family but has no other connection to the original and is inferior to it in every aspect.
There are the predictable "aww" moments (death of a pet, reminder that the kids might fight with each other, but they really love each other) and the predictable "ewww" moments (one child barfs and another slips and falls on it). The script is slack and lazy, incapable of a satisfying resolution for even the most reliable family-movie plot devices like a mean bully or snobby, over-protective neighbors.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the parents work together to make sure that they achieve a balance between time for work and time for each other.
This movie was a remake of a 1950 movie of the same title that was modernized for contemporary audiences. Why is Hollywood fond of remakes? What would be the challenge in remaking a movie on family that is over five decades old?
How is pratfall violence used for the sake of comedy? Why is it funny for some to see people fall over and break things?
- In theaters: December 25, 2003
- On DVD or streaming: April 6, 2004
- Cast: Bonnie Hunt, Hilary Duff, Steve Martin
- Director: Shawn Levy
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Book Characters, Brothers and Sisters
- Run time: 100 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: language and some thematic elements
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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