Cheaper By The Dozen 2

on December 21, 2005 by Kim Williamson
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First, there was this film's trailer, full of a trio of trouble -- slapstick, pratfalls, and crotchbotch humor -- enough to persuade many a moviegoing fan of the 2003 "Cheaper by the Dozen" (or its 1950 progenitor) to stick with the local video store. And how rather unfortunate. From its first moment to the last, with a recurring voiceover by Bonnie Hunt as the mom providing warm commentary, this "2" has more on its mind than cheap laughs: What happens to a family, which has spent so many years together as the so-many-children grow up, so tight and secure, when the youngsters begin to reach adulthood and prepare to leave the nest? Given the film's 12-kids scenario, it's a theme writ large.

Sadly, as though taking psychic cues from its eventual trailer, this writ-small (by scripter Sam Harper) sequel attends less to the advancement of juveniles than to the adventures of juvenalia, in the form of dad (Steve Martin) and his one-upmanship contest with a wealthy neighbor (Eugene Levy). Given the father-first nature of Martin's Tom Baker character in the previous "Dozen," it's as if Tom has not only left behind his football coaching career, but also his inner self. Trying to rescue matters is a fine subplot involving the turning- teen Sarah Baker (Alyson Stoner), who falls in love for the first time -- but even that emotive storyline must endure a Martin-and-Levy moment in which one is dangling from a movie balcony, the end result of adult snoopery on Sarah's first date. All in all, the emphasis in this title is less on the "2" and more on the "Cheaper." Starring Steve Martin, Eugene Levy and Bonnie Hunt. Directed by Adam Shankman. Written by Sam Harper. Produced by Shawn Levy and Ben Myron. A Fox release. Comedy. Rated PG for some crude humor and mild language. Running time: 93 min

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