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Cheaper by the Dozen 2

Cheaper by the Dozen 2 is an exercise in shameless contrivance--even for the kiddies, though they might enjoy its familiar faces. If you hear laughter from grown-ups, there might've been a laugh track installed in the theater prior to the screening. Or someone's delirious.

Cheaper by the Dozen 2


So as not to potentially utilize even one of its viewers' brain cells, Cheaper by the Dozen 2 needs minimal exposition before allowing physical hijinks to set in. After the—you guessed it—12-strong Baker family worries of growing apart, the patriarch, Tom (Steve Martin), orders a mandatory family trip to their rustic vacation home in Wisconsin. It's there that the Griswalds, er, Bakers meet up with old rivals the Murtaugh family (of eight), led by uber-competitive Jimmy (Eugene Levy) and his much younger wife, Sarina (Carmen Electra)—though she is decidedly more amiable than he. When Jimmy tells Tom how to control his kids, Tom pits his clan against Jimmy's in a competition to teach him a lesson. Things turn PG-cutthroat, but all must end prettily and benignly if there's to be yet another sequel.


It's so disheartening to see three actors—Martin, Levy and Bonnie Hunt, as "Mom" Baker—with such talent and rare longevity pawn themselves off for a little financial sustenance. Here, the three seem utterly uninspired and ashamed, like they're begrudgingly fulfilling agreed-upon obligations. Martin tries for a style of physical comedy that the target audiences' chaperones love him for, but it's all for naught. Levy's comedy lacks any semblance of clarity, failing to appeal to any age group. He's the most disappointing of the three for apparently seeking out these types of roles. And Hunt's straightforwardly unfunny performance obscures her career as a sardonic comedic actress. Those little ones in search of ‘tween idols Tom Welling and Hilary Duff will see little more than their chiseled physicality—which is the best and only restraint in the movie.


Sure, director Adam Shankman has shot to the top of many a financier's speed dial, thanks to his lucrative string of late--Bringing Down the House, The Pacifier, et al—but there's a downside to being the ‘It' cheese director: You might not get another shot after your first failure. We'll hold off on box-office predictions, but Shankman's artless-heartless motif is gasping. In Dozen 2, actual comedy takes a backseat to vain attempts at over-the-top slapstick; the real heroes are the on-set minions charged with clean-up duty on a set that must've resembled Nickelodeon's Double Dare. Indeed, fart jokes and the like abound, and there are no second thoughts about recycling blunders that only those new to the world haven't yet seen. For good measure, even childbirth is exploited for last-ditch pathos. Too bad shame wasn't exploited.

Bottom Line rated this film 1 1/2 stars.