Cheaper By The Dozen (2003) – movie review

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Movie Review by Vivienne Messenger

Starring: Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt, Hilary Duff, Tom Welling, Piper Perabo
Director: Shawn Levy

One child can be a handful but twelve! CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN stars Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt as Tom and Kate Baker, the parents of twelve children ranging from 22 year-old Nora (Piper Perabo) to 5 year-old twins, Nigel and Kyle (Brent and Shane Kinsman). Nora has sensibly moved out and lives with her boyfriend Hank (Ashton Kutcher) a very vain actor that’s just broken into TV commercials, while the rest of her family all live happily (well most of the time) together in a small town in Illinois.

Tom’s a coach for the local college football team while Kate expertly manages the household even finding time to write her memoirs which she sends to her agent in New York with Tom’s encouragement. Family life is never smooth but abounds with love and chaos until Tom lands a coaching job at a large university and uproots the family accordingly. When Kate then learns her memoirs are to be published she goes to New York to publicize her book with assurances from Tom that he can cope, but the strain of twelve children in one household bursts into open warfare and the Baker household descends on the slippery slope towards family anarchy!

Steve Martin is as dynamic and comical as ever here as patriarch of this enormous family and together with Bonnie Hunt at the helm their onscreen chemistry and strong performances steer the movie in the right direction. But what also helps this movie succeed is that it establishes the individual characters of all the children and allows their distinct personalities to shine through. There’s the fashion crazed 16 year-old Lorraine (Hilary Duff). Then 12 year-old Sarah (Alyson Stoner) who’s the tomboy, ringleader and chief troublemaker in all the hilarious and original mishaps that occur especially those directed towards boyfriend Hank when he visits them with Nora. The quiet one, 9 year-old Mark (Forrest Landis), has an affinity for amphibians and reptiles and along with his huge toad Beanz manages to be the catalyst of a number of riotous incidents that cause total mayhem.

Director Shawn Levy achieves more with this film than he did with JUST MARRIED and the end result is a very entertaining movie interspersed with some memorizing and funny incidents that you won’t forget in a hurry and just thank your lucky stars you’re not the one on the receiving end! A light-hearted and untaxing movie, CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN is an experience for all the family to enjoy.

5 out of 6 stars
The children are:

Nora (Piper Perabo) – 22
Charlie (Tom Welling) – 18
Lorraine (Hilary Duff) – 16
Henry (Kevin Schmidt) – 14
Sarah (Alyson Stoner) – 12
Jake (Jacob Smith) – 11
Mark (Forrest Landis) – 9
Kim (Morgan York) – 8
Jessica (Liliana Mumy) – 8
Mike (Blake Woodruff) – 6
Nigel (Brent Kinsman) – 5
Kyle (Shane Kinsman) – 5