Reviewed by: Misty Wagner
Starring: Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt, Hilary Duff, Piper Perabo, Tom Welling | Directed by: Shawn Levy | Produced by: Robert Simonds, Ben Myron, Chris Columbus, Michael Barnathan | Screenplay by: Craig Titley, Sam Harper, Joel Cohen, Alec Sokolow, Frank B. Gilbreth Jr., Ernestine Gilbreth Carey | Source writer: Frank Buker Gilbreth Jr., Ernestine Gilbreth Carey | Story: Craig Titley | Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Sequel: “Cheaper by the Dozen 2” (2005)
I went to this movie a skeptic and came out deeply touched! Some of us go to a movie simply for its entertainment value, while others go seeking something a bit deeper and maybe touching… well, this movie is IT on all accounts!
The story is about Tom (Steve Martin), and Kate Baker (Bonnie Hunt) who fall in love in college, and while pursuing their dreams of career, decide that their shared dream of a large family wins out in the end. They build a home in a more rural town in Illinois and build their lives and family. Fast forward to 12 children and 20 some odd years later, their relationship is great, romance is alive, lives are chaotic but they know they are blessed. A job offer to coach in Chicago causes Tom to “reach for his dream,” and with his supportive wife and skeptical kids in tow, they relocate to a new home, higher “status” and of course, everything changes. It’s not long before doors open for Kate’s dream of being a published author, and with this the problems really start to arise.
In one of the first scenes, Tom comes in from a jog and sits down on his “lumpy mattress” (lumpy because there are about 6 little ones and a dog under the covers hiding) and Kate tells him the “trick” to getting the lumps out of an old mattress. The kids come out giggling and “wrestling” with dad as he attempts to “de-lump” the old mattress. Just then the music montage from the opening fades back in and you see this family loving each other and playing as you hear Natalie Merchant singing “these are the days to remember.” I was deeply touched by this entire scene, and this movie just continued to surprise and touch both my husband and I until the end (which has hilarious outtakes to accompany the credits). Granted, we only have one four year old and not 12 kids, but there were scenes and moments in there that any parent (regardless of the number of children you have) can relate to.
The soundtrack is fabulous and fits the film well, serving up “classic” songs for all generations. The acting is great; the kids were funny, adorable and brilliant. Hillary Duff and Tom Welling both did well, and even Ashton Kutcher added a small, but great performance that will leave you aching from laughter. This movie (or at least a good family movie that did not try to “cross the line”) has been a long time in coming, and I think that this Christmas was the perfect time for “Cheaper by the Dozen.”
Negative elements—Near the beginning of the film there was a small conversation among the kids where Hillary Duff’s character (Loraine) talked about how Christmas is a sad holiday because it’s when Jesus died, which leads other kids to “correct” her. To us, it was not an offensive situation, but I know that some people may find the “lightheartedness” of it offensive. “God” is used subtly once, in a derogatory way. There are a few lighthearted comments concerning the Bakers getting pregnant once due to being drunk. One sentence in another scene used the word crotch (lighthearted and not outlandishly inappropriate at all). The children have several scenes where they do “crazy kid stuff” to an extreme; it’s a little violent, so if that is something you hesitate wanting your children to see, it is there. My four year old loved it, and laughed out loud often.
The times when the children were disrespectful to the parents were rare. The one major time that Charlie (Tom Welling) was hatefully disrespectful to his father, he did come back humbly and apologize.
The oldest daughter, Nora (Piper Parabo) lives with boyfriend (Kutcher). It is indicated and lightly discussed a few times, and though not a lot of emphasis is put on the morality issues of this, it is stated that her parents disapprove several times, not just of him but of their sleeping together.
Conclusion—In the end, I feel that this movie is great for parents and children alike. As parents, it helps us see that having kids does not take away from or inhibit us from our dreams, but enhances the way things will be. That it does require sacrifice, hard work and selflessness to bring a family together and keep it that way, but it’s worth it. Our kids are worth it! As a Christian walking, I felt I was not only entertained, but I felt encouraged in the choices I make as a parent. God’s grace is big enough for all of us and I love having the assurance of that! I encourage this as a holiday film, as a family movie for all ages.