Film Reviews

CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN

By • Dec 25th, 2003 •

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Thomas Baker (Steve Martin) and his wife Kate (Bonnie Hunt) have twelve children ranging from twenty to six. Tom coaches high school ball in Midland, Illinois but he has always dreamed of coaching the football team at Illinois Polytechnic University. However he doesn’t have the backbone and leadership qualities to do it.

How do I know he’d be a lousy coach of young athletes? His children are destructive monsters. He has absolutely no control over them. They are so barbaric I was shocked they were actually wearing clothes.

Kate must be on drugs. I’m thinking hillbilly heroin. Why else would she allow twelve children to destroy furniture, play hockey in the house, beat each other up, and take sledge hammers to the walls? Well, at least there is one rule in the house: No boyfriend sleepovers.

Kate is so oblivious to the mayhem around her that she has the time to write a book about their idyllic life. They are a family!
Yeah! Let’s all celebrate a brood of selfish children growing up without any rules of behavior or human conduct.

When Tom is offered his lifelong dream job coaching college ball by his college rival his kids scream bloody murder. They refuse to go. He begs. He bribes them with bigger allowances, better clothes, and a huge house with private bedrooms for each of them (though the twins must share). So, the palatial house has 13 bedrooms! It is a mansion but the kids are furious. Charlie (Tom Welling), their teenage hunk of a son, gets a car. (But, alas, it’s not a brand new one!) Lorraine (Hilary Duff) gets new clothes. These two beautiful kids are not liked at their new school. Why? Because they are beautiful or because their father is the new star coach of the college’s football team?

Within two minutes of being in the new house, one of the kids leaps on to the chandelier. Tom jumps on it too. It crashes to the floor. Kate looks befuddled.

Eldest daughter Nora (Piper Perabo) is trying to free herself of her insanely out-of-control family. She has moved in with her self-centered model/actor boyfriend (Ashton Kutcher). He is as self-involved as her siblings (but apparently only I could see this). On a visit home the evil children torture him and soak his underwear in chop meat. The dog attacks him. It was hilarious!

Of course, even the dog can tell Tom is a spineless eunuch, and refuses to obey him.

The children hate each other, choosing one kid as the “outsider.” They call him “FedEx.” This is so funny! They call him this because FedEx must have dropped him off in front of their door. He doesn’t belong in the family.

Tom and Kate are okay with this.

Kate’s book is to be published so she must go to New York for a few days. Instead of hiring a housekeeper and a few nannies with her book advance check, she leaves all the responsibilities to disciplinarian Tom. All Hell breaks loose and Tom doesn’t care.

Tom and Kate are clearly afraid of their demon children. When they are cruel and destructive, Tom finally tells them they are “grounded,” but this term confuses them. They never heard of it before. No matter, they leave the house anyway and destroy their neighbor’s son’s birthday party.

Written by Craig Titley from a book by Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey and directed by Shawn Levy, this is the most subversive, anti-American film of the year.

Bring the kids! They will learn how to be a family.

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