A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Cheaper by the Dozen, which is set in the 1920s and based on a true story, offers a rosy look at parenting a very large family, but surprises at the end when one of the principal characters dies (off camera). The death is unexpected and significantly changes the upbeat, life-affirming tone of rest of the movie. Other than its sad ending and a scene in which a representative from Planned Parenthood is made the butt of jokes about birth control and large families, it's a sweet, but thin, depiction of the values, activities, and customs of a time gone by.
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What's the story?
Based on a classic memoir by one of the older Gilbreth girls, CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN is the story of a family that delights in its size, its uniqueness, and its ability to deliver well-rounded, intelligent citizens to the world. It's 1921. Frank (Clifton Webb), an efficiency expert, and Lillian (Myrna Loy), a psychologist, are educated, economically-comfortable folks who love their dozen children. We watch them weather all sorts of humorous calamities -- wholesale tonsillectomies, changing schools, first proms, summer at the seashore, and more. Late in the film, however, a tragedy occurs which forces the family to reassess their lives and take on new purpose and responsibility
Is it any good?
It's old-fashioned from its acting style, uncomplicated characters, and story line, to the ease with which problems are solved. Still it's fun, innocent, and, until the sad ending, a likeable picture of an idealized family nearly 100 years ago.
The 2003 version with Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt is not actually a remake, and has only the title and size of the family in common with this earlier movie which was inspired by the real Gilbreth family.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the changes in family life and relationships over nearly a century. How are families still the same or different? Which changes do you see as positive? Negative?
How does the relationship between Mr. and Mrs. Gilbreth foreshadow the "co-parenting" that exists in many homes today?
Ann's rebellion seems tame compared to kids who want to be independent today. Do the stakes seem higher now? What are some positive ways a teen can show a parent that he or she is ready for more freedom?
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