Cheaper by the Dozen (2003)

Bonnie Hunt and Steve Martin in Cheaper by the Dozen

Father of the Tribe

Whilst I have seen the 1950 version of "Cheaper by the Dozen" I've not read the novel on which it is based but I can come to two conclusions about the 2003 movie called "Cheaper by the Dozen", it is neither a remake nor an adaptation of the original movie. Instead "Cheaper by the Dozen" appears to take the idea of a family with 12 children and come up with its own story about the expected difficulties of raising such a large brood especially when the father has to cope with them on his own and expectedly doesn't cope. I'm not going to say that "Cheaper by the Dozen" is a bad movie because it is good fun, but it is all so obvious because humour surrounding a man or sometimes men trying to deal with children has been done time and again.

When they met Tom (Steve Martin - Bowfinger) and Kate (Bonnie Hunt - Return to Me) both had dreams, he was going to be a top football coach, she was going to be a top writer but over the years their dreams were put on hold as their family grew and grew till finally it stopped growing at 12 children. But when Tom gets the opportunity to coach his college team it is too good an offer to refuse, except Kate's book gets published and she has to hit the book tour trail. So with Kate away Tom finds that trying to coach a new team whilst managing the home and their children much harder and stressful than he imagined.

Piper Perabo and Ashton Kutcher in Cheaper by the Dozen

So as already mentioned the 2003 "Cheaper by the Dozen" is neither a remake nor an adaptation of the novel. But you have remember that the novel was written back in the 1940s when there were different attitudes, when men were the authoritative centre of the family where as now if we are to believe the movies are bumbling fools when trying to raise children. What this means is that whilst we may get a storyline which sees the Baker's relocating so Tom can have his dream coaching job and his wife Kate going off on a book tour the storyline is little more than Tom unable to cope with a houseful of children. And so all the elements of time, motion and efficiency which dominated the 1950 movie are nowhere to be seen.

The thing is that "Cheaper by the Dozen" is genuinely fun, there is no one better to play a harassed father than Steve Martin and between his quick wit and slapstick there are plenty of laughs. And of course with 12 children, many of which are young, there are plenty of kiddie pranks as they get their own way doing it their way such as pranking Hank, the self absorbed boyfriend of eldest daughter Nora. The only trouble is that whilst all of this is fun, be it the production line meal times or the dropping off at school none of it is that original. Men being unable to cope with children have been done to death and as such there is a familiarity to all of the humour.

It also sadly means that the emphasis of "Cheaper by the Dozen" is upon the humour of Tom trying to cope with the children whilst starting his dream job rather than the emotional underbelly. And by emotional underbelly I mean that Tom and Kate becoming so wrapped up in their dreams that they don't see how the family is really being affected. Oh you get what is a typical sentimental realisation at the end of all the fun but it feels like an after thought.

Now whilst there are a few recognizable faces in the Baker brood such as Piper Perabo, Tom Welling and Hilary Duff as well Ashton Kutcher who plays Perabo's self obsessed boyfriend Hank "Cheaper by the Dozen" is very much a movie built around Steve Martin. And to be honest it is because Martin is so good at playing father's that much of the humour works, from the comical looks of exasperation, to the kindly way he plays with the children we basically have a typical and enjoyable Steve Martin father performance. He is aided by Bonnie Hunt who plays Kate and there is a strange believability to having Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt playing a married couple, they bounce off of each other nicely.

What this all boils down to is that "Cheaper by the Dozen" is a fun movie, it is not really an adaptation of the popular novel, only taking an idea but it works. And it works because whilst watching a father struggle with children is obvious Steve Martin makes it fun with his energy, wit and face pulling.