003778Reviews & Counting
Cheaper by the Dozen (SE)
DVD disk
11.28.2005 By: Jason Coleman
Cheaper by the Dozen (SE) order
Shawn Levy

Steve Martin
Bonnie Hunt
Tom Welling


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A mother and father must find a way to juggle their flourishing jobs, marriage, and a large family with twelve, yes twelve kids. It’s a story of love, sacrifice and what it ultimately takes to keep a family together.
In his heyday, Steven Martin was one of the funniest guys around. From greats like THE JERK and THE MAN WITH TWO BRAINS to later works like PLANES, TRAINS & AUTOMOBILES and MY BLUE HEAVEN, there’s a catalog of some great work. But Martin, like other funnymen Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd, decided to throw the towel some time ago and just do things that were safe. It seems that with age comes a desire to no longer be irreverent and audacious, just go with the status quo. Well, Martin has hit his peak with this one, playing a father of a brooding family of twelve kids. Only this time, the film is such light fare, it almost floats up on its own and flies away. (Or maybe that was just wishful thinking!) Not that a family movie can’t have a fresh face, as Martin and company already proved in Ron Howard’s PARENTHOOD. But this one seems like PARENTHOOD, minus the wit. With three writers credited to this script, you would think that they could have come up with something better than the dog attacking the crotch routine.

Martin deserves better, as does his quick witted co-star Bonnie Hunt. The kids, including Tom Welling from SMALLVILLE and Hillary Duff, are just lost in a mix of trite scenarios and bad comedy. (Best unintentionally funny moment – when Ashton Kutcher points to his face and states “This is my moneymaker, I’m not that good of an actor!” - how right you are Ashton!) But how can a light family comedy be that bad you ask? After all it has a few laughs and it poses so many questions, like will dad be able to handle the kids on his own? Can mom and dad both work and still have time for the kids? And in the end, despite all the loveable mishaps, will everyone come together as a family? The answer to these questions sums up my feeling for this embarrassing mess – who cares?
This Baker’s Dozen Edition has so many features, I cried. (Literally, and not for joy!) Why anyone would want to own, let alone watch all this drivel is beyond me. But, l braved the murky waters and watched every (yes, every) single featurette, deleted scene, and commentary that this puppy could dish out. (And I’ve got the sore ass to prove it!)

Commentary (with Director Shawn Levy): Never, in all my years of listening to DVD commentaries, have I ever heard so much name dropping and ass kissing as I did in this one with director Levy. (And I use the term commentary loosely!) The man behind BIG FAT LIAR and JUST MARRIED (there’s a winner) lists almost every crew members name in this full length torture session. It's bad, real bad. Want examples? How about when he talks of casting Tom Welling, who was getting major offers for leads in features. Levy’s pitch – “If you want to be an actor and you want to be challenged and respected as one actor among an ensemble of actors, come and do my film.” (And he’s not kidding!) Even Levy speaks badly of his own work, calling certain scenes “unnecessary” and saying others “didn’t really work.” He manages to go off the deep end though, when he boasts Steve Martin’s work here as one of the “best performances of his career". Kill me, kill me now.

Commentary (with the kids – Alyson Stoner, Jacob Smith, Kevin Schmidt, Morgan York, Liliana Mumy and Selected Scene Commentary by Piper Perabo): This as horrible as it gets. You have five kids, who all talk at the same time and love to, like most young kids do, repeat certain words over and over and over again. (But I’m not going to say anything else, they’re only kids for crying out loud!) What’s really funny is the selected scene commentary of Perabo, which is a nice way of saying that she comes in at the six minute mark, says two sentences, does that a couple more times throughout the film, and leaves. Selected indeed. Fox, you really made this into a commentary, but didn’t make one with David Fincher for Alien 3? You should be ashamed.

Orphans: Deleted And Extended Scenes (19:41): There are eleven of these and they just get worse and worse. (Don’t ask me about the optional, thank god, commentary with Director Levy!) You know it’s bad when a great actress like Eileen Brennan, in one of the deleted scenes, is reduced to hawking up loogies. Yuck.

Storyboard to Screen Comparison: Here we get a look at the storyboards right alongside the actual footage. (At least there’s no buttons to press!) Sequences include Frogs And Eggs (2:06) and Dylan’s Birthday Party (1:13). If you're at all eager to watch this, you have way too much time on your hands! (I have an excuse, I was forced!)

Featurettes: At least these ones don’t use that much actual film footage, instead showing interviews and behind the scenes stuff. Can we just attach this to some other film?

Frogs And Eggs (8:10): This one is mildly interesting just to see behind the scenes footage of Hilary Duff freaking out about having egg on her face, as well as seeing how hard it is to direct a room full of young kids. But in the end, is this sequence so impressive that it needed its own eight minute featurette?

Dylan’s Birthday (7:57): A classic example of why films cost so much money. Having special effects guys and a stunt coordinator involved in a sequence where Steve Martin flies out of the moon bounce (which isn’t funny anyway), is like getting sunflowers for a scene directly from Holland.

Director’s Viewfinder: Creating A Fictional Family (15:03): Didn’t get enough of Director Levy on the above commentary, well here he spills out pretty much the same stuff, with a few new tidbits thrown in for good measure. What did I think? I thought of what Henry Winkler said to loudmouth Michael Keaton in NIGHT SHIFT – “I will give you a quarter if you just stop talking!”

Critters (12:13): Unfortunately, this has nothing to do with the cult 1986 flick of the same name. Nope, in this one the dog and frog get their due. Even if this one was more for kids, a twelve minute talking heads explanation will only put them to sleep.

In the Inside Look section, you get a sneak peek into CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN 2 (finally, what took them so long!?), with Carmen Electra helping out for eye candy. Plus, if that wasn’t enough, there is an actual Scene from the film. (If that’s the best it has to offer, it’s in trouble!) There are also Trailers for, god help us, LIKE MIKE 2 and DR. DOLITTLE 3. When will it end? (Right now!)
When I go to a Steve Martin film, I want to laugh. Call me crazy, but in his early years, Martin was a comic to be respected and admired. CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN is a horrible excuse for a comedy and yet, somebody out there liked it enough to garner a sequel. We’re smart people, who should not be fooled into thinking that just because a film has to do with kids, it doesn’t have to contain laughs. I mean, who among us has said, “hey, let’s go see that new family comedy, I hear it’s not funny", huh? Me neither.
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