Thursday, May 10, 2007

Cheaper by the Dozen I and II

Cheaper by the Dozen (2003) was one of my favorite movies of that year, even though it's just meant as family entertainment. On the DVD commentary, director Shaun Levy spoke of high ambitions he had when making the movieto really try to reinvigorate the classic family comedy with pathos, and I think he succeeded. The movie is actually quite touching and made me reflect on the value of my own family. Other strengths of the movie were a script that catered to Steve Martin's comic gifts and a talented ensemble of younger kids. Here were my reviews of the two films:

Cheaper by the Dozen (2003):
It's true that the fun of having more than two or three kids is cancelled out by the subsequent responsibility and expense of paying for their college, but when we don't have to pay more than the price of a movie ticket to experience a large family, then it's tons of fun. So, first off, yes, I have to admit that the mere fact that the movie centers around a 14-member extended family makes it enjoyable from the start. I was almost instanteously engaged until over halfway through the movie trying to keep track of who was who, and with such a talented and diverse ensemble, I enjoyed watching all of the development, especially Mark (Forest Landiss), the kid who kind of tied the whole story together. They even found room for overrated stars like Ashton Kutcher and Hillary Duff as one-note characters among the others. I also think that underneath all the comedy there was a lot of moral value within the conflicts between Steve Martin and his family and all those people trying to tear it apart (like the coach and his fame-career-driven attitude and Ashton Kuthcer's character and his narcissism and the bullies at school and Paula Marshall and her preppy conformity).

Cheaper by the Dozen II (2005):
Cheaper by the Dozen II like most sequels, wasnt as good as its predecessor but was a safe movie bet, allowing you to fall back into a familiarity of the first and have some more fun with it. It picks up a couple years after the first installment with changes abound as the oldest daughter is now married and pregnant and with everyone growing up, the Bakers plan to vacation one last time at their old summer nesting grounds before sending off newly graduated Lurraine (Hillary Duff) to New York. Ashton Kutchers out of the picture, while Eugene Levy enters the scene as Steve Martins rival, providing some decent comic relief. Knowing full-well, they cant focus on all twelve kids, Tom Wellings newfound romance and rebelliousness are underdeveloped, while the unfortunate mistake is made of shifting the focus to Hillary Duffs character. Duff basically plays a caricature of herself (or at least her public image) as a teenage diva, who only worked in the first movie because she was only added in at small doses. Theres also a side story with one of the younger siblings having her first crush. Like the first film, this installment relies on Martins physical comedy for laughs with some very relatable moments along the way and in the end, the family wins out over all other forces.

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