Cheaper By The Dozen 2 Movie Review
Cast & Crew
Director : Adam Shankman
Screenwriter : Sam Harper
Martin reprises the role of Tom Baker, father of twelve and husband to wife Kate (the sparkling, grounded Bonnie Hunt). In an effort to bond the family one final time before grandkids are born and chickens fly the coop, Tom cloyingly convinces the clan to vacation at their old lakefront haunt. There, they meet their nemeses: the clean-cut white-teethed Murtaugh family led by perfectionist papa Jimmy, played by the painfully underutilized Eugene Levy.
The Murtaugh kids study hard, attend Yale and excel at sports. The Baker kids excel at poop jokes. Taking a lifelong rivalry between the dads to its inevitable conclusion, the families prepare for an annual Labor Day competition - one the wealthy Murtaughs win with regularity.
Naturally, there's the obvious male chest thumping, but it's got a pretty tight set of reins on it. The fun amounts to competitive campfire sing-alongs, egg toss training, and flat banter about child-rearing techniques. When the simpleton dialogue isn't distracting you - or your kids, by the way - listening to Martin's plaintive whining and pathetic rah-rah talks might. Screenwriter Sam Harper wrote a lovable family film with his first attempt, Rookie of the Year, but his Cheaper by the Dozen efforts lack all ingenuity and vitality.
Of course, there's always the "meat in the pants" gag to keep the kids laughing. But will they laugh if they've already seen the same trick pulled in the first film? How difficult would it have been to conjure up something else? At least the original movie featured a pair of sauce-soaked underwear and a playfully hammy Ashton Kutcher. This one results in two guys falling off a dock.
In fact, whenever there's a conflict that might find the film's funny bone, it ends with people falling. Off docks, balconies, logs, whatever's available. Other slapstick options for a Tom vs. Jimmy log-rolling contest, which you've probably seen on TV, are many. Sadly, the scene's high point involves one character slipping split-legged and crunching the family jewels.
The potential for creative, appealing, family-targeted laughs is there. But director Adam Shankman takes a poorly timed, easy way out for each gag and the movie suffers. Levy's snarky shrewdness is wasted, as is the quick wit of Bonnie Hunt. Too often, cast members are stuffed onscreen for awkwardly short scenes, resulting in a bunch of family problems solved in ridiculous, faster-than-a-bad-sitcom fashion. If you're a teenager wanting to check out Hilary Duff in this one, don't bother. She has about 6 minutes of screen time.
Points are scored for Hunt, sharp and sensitive, and Carmen Electra as Murtaugh's new trophy wife. But what to make of Steve Martin? His recent work has two sides: misfiring family films and more mature material like Shopgirl. Perhaps there's an artistic middle somewhere with a movie like the un-PC Bringing Down the House (a far better Adam Shankman film). Regardless, with more family-friendly movies in Steve Martin's future, upcoming attempts have gotta be better than this. Even the bloopers during the closing credits stink.
Duff studies the script.
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