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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Cheaper By The Dozen 2

On November 25th, I spent the afternoon at my favorite hangout, the Essex Outlet Cinemas, and saw the movie Yours, Mine, and Ours. It was about a blended family with 18 children and the chaos that ensues with such a mob living under one roof (and without the aid of narcotics or alcohol abuse). It was remarkably more similar to 2003's Cheaper By The Dozen about a family with 12 kids and two working parents trying to juggle careers and a family of rowdies than it was to its' own original source material, the Yours, Mine, and Ours from 1968 starring Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda.

Now less than a month later I find myself back at the Essex Outlet Cinemas in my usual seat with a terrific case of deja flu, which is like a case of deja vu but it's when you think you're going to get sick from seeing the same movie twice in one month without planning to do so. Now I know it sounds awful, but it's really not so bad. It could be much worse. If I'd seen Cheaper By The Dozen 2 first and then had to sit through Yours, Mine, and Ours second then I might have come down with deja phew, which is when you get really sick because the second movie stunk compared to the first. Fortunately, Cheaper By The Dozen 2 is a whole lot more fun than its' November knock-off.

Yep. They're Baaaaack! Those kids from
Cheaper By The Dozen have spawned a sequel in the aptly if not-so-originally titled Cheaper By The Dozen 2. And this time they have teamed up in a summertime Olympiad against the family next door with eight children of their own, thus filling the screen with a total of 18 rambunctious, precious, totally out-of-control hellions determined to make audiences laugh themselves silly for two solid hours. Why they've even thrown in Steve Martin and Eugene Levy as the crazy Dads to up the nutty humor factor and matched Bonnie Hunt with Carmen Electra as the two Moms. Carmen Electra? I know. Well, to be fair, she plays the kids' step-mother (number 3), which explains why her boobs are still so inflated that they could be used as flotation devices in case of emergency. The one thing they never do explain is how Bonnie Hunt has managed to continue to look as great as she does considering she supposedly has birthed twelve of her own. I'm surprised she's not in a wheelchair, taking fluids. I know I would be.

So the plot, what there is of it, is based on the premise that the Bakers have decided to return to Lake Winnetka, Wisconsin, to their longtime vacation rental home. The three oldest Baker kids are ready to strike out on their own. Charlie (Tom Welling) is contemplating moving away and opening his own business, daughter Nora (Piper
Perabo) is about to have a baby and move with her husband Bud (Jonathan Bennett) to Houston, and Lorraine (Hilary Duff) has graduated from high school and secured an internship at Allure magazine in New York. Tom and Kate feel the family is slipping away and so this is their last gasp at keeping the whole twelve kids together for a brief celebration at the end of the summer.

Meanwhile, there is the issue of their lakeside neighbors, the Murtaughs. Tom has had a competition of one-upsmanship going with Levy's character, Jimmy Murtaugh, since they grew up together and it has carried on to this day. In no time at all Tom and Jimmy are at it again, and Tom is stewing because Jimmy has become extremely wealthy and successful over the years. His children also seem almost too perfect. They are all athletes, scholars, polite and self-motivated. They even creep out the Baker kids who find it "unnatural" that anyone would study in the summer, especially on their own. Herein lies the problem. Tom and Kate have allowed their children to grow as individuals, warts and all. In contrast, Murtaugh demands strict control of his. He keeps his kids on a short leash, grooming them, "to reflect the best aspects of (his) gene pool." The contrasts between the two families feed into the obvious combat that is the climax of the film ~ the annual Lake Winnetka Sports Competition. Hellbent on winning at any costs, Tom and Jimmy go wild in training their kids in such categories as the egg toss and the three-legged race. By the time the competition begins there is rebellion on both teams.

Of course, just to complicate things, a bit of Romeo and Juliet sneaks into the mix as well as both Tom Welling's Charlie Baker finds romance with Murtaugh daughter Anne, played by Jaime King, and Sarah Baker (Alyson Stoner) has her first crush and first date with Eliot Murtaugh, played by Taylor Lautner. Needless to say, both relationships have fathers Tom and Jimmy flummoxed. At one point they even find themselves mistaken by moviegoers and theater staff as gay lovers necking in the balcony while trying to spy on their kids' date. At this point I found myself wondering if I was in that audience who I would think was getting the worst end of the deal in that relationship since they are both certifiable, you know what I mean?

So the rest of the movie is pretty much cobbled-together with cute bits that highlight the kids best strengths. Shane Kinsman and Brent Kinsman as Kyle and Nigel Baker had minimal exposure in the first film. Since then, of course, they have received a great deal of press playing Felicity Huffman's wild twins on Desperate Housewives and so they seem much more in the forefront, high-fiving one another and giving their reaction shots to any number of situations. Liliana Mumy (Bill Mumy's real life daugther) as Jessica reflects tongue in cheek on her off-camera father's Lost in Space days by commenting "Sometimes I feel like I'm from another planet." Forrest Landis as Mark does his own slapstick "oopsy" involving a backpack full of fireworks left just s bit too close to an open flame at a ritzy outdoor affair. You get the idea.

By the time this wrapped up I was ready to go home. I mean, it was entertaining, cute, and even heartwarming in places, but there were no surprises. You would have to have never seen a movie or lived most of your life alone in a cave if you couldn't figure out that Nora would give birth at just the most inopportune moment, that the birth would signal an "awwww" moment for the entire family and that it would somehow put the decades-long Murtaugh/Baker feud to rest and all would end happily. In this case, it was so amazing in fact that when Nora gasped that her water broke seconds later she is shown being hoisted by her husband and brothers out of a canoe and carried up to shore with absolutely no sign of any moisture on her pants at all. This really is a miraculous birth! It cures family feuds, brings happy endings, and keeps clothes sanitary and crisp. If she'd popped this baby out in a stable
it would have been the perfect Christmas movie.

Okay, I confess. I liked Cheaper By The Dozen 2. Maybe I was under the influence of my butter AND cheesy-flavoring topped popcorn. It's the holiday season, so I was celebrating with too much snack excess, but that Rachel, behind the counter at the Essex Outlet Cinemas, has a tempting smile. She can seduce you with her "You want butter on that?" smile. I said yes before I knew what I was saying and by the second reel of the movie I was in a euphoric concession coma. Maybe that's the best way to see a movie. Great snacks, curled up in one of those comfy, rocking loveseats at the Essex Outlet Cinemas, warm on a cold winter's night.

Of course it doesn't hurt if the movie has Tom Welling in a pair of tight shorts either.

1 comment:

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