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Cheaper by the Dozen: Baker's Dozen Edition (2003)

Director Shawn Levy's "remake" of the classic 1950 nostalgia piece Cheaper by the Dozen has little in common with its cinematic namesake besides a title (and more kids running around on screen than you can shake a stick at), but that doesn't stop it from being a warm, well-intentioned family comedy. That those intentions can't quite make up for a predictable story and mostly uninspired gags is much more problematic. Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt star as Tom and Kate Baker, a happily married Midwestern couple who always wanted a big family — and got their wish in spades. Twenty-three years and 12 kids (including at least a couple of pairs of twins) after saying "I do," the Bakers are living a life of perpetual, happy chaos (the only fly in their ointment is oldest daughter Nora's egotistical actor boyfriend, played by a cheerfully self-parodying Ashton Kutcher), when high school football coach Tom is suddenly offered his dream job: running the pigskin program at his alma mater, Illinois Polytechnic. Faster than you can say "family meeting," the Bakers are off to a new house in a new neighborhood … and find themselves facing plenty of new problems. Tom is so caught up in his job that he's never home, the kids are outcasts at school, and Kate is distracted by the chance to have the fame and fortune she always secretly hankered after: Her memoir is going to be published, and her editor wants her to come to New York for a big promotional tour. But what will the Bakers do without Mom? Since this is a slapstick family comedy, take a wild guess. Mayhem ensues the minute Kate leaves the house and puts Tom in charge — chandeliers crash, pools are fallen into, and so on. It's all pretty much what you'd expect from a mainstream family film these days, especially one directed by the guy behind Big Fat Liar and Just Married (which starred Kutcher). Martin and Hunt are engaging as Tom and Kate and very believable as a married couple (their banter has that easy, comfortable intimacy most duos aspire to), which is only to be expected from the two pros. The only "name" actors in the Baker brood are Piper Perabo, as newly independent oldest child Nora, Smallville's Tom Welling as angsty teenage son Charlie, and tween sensation Hilary Duff as mirror-obsessed Lorraine. Most of the rest of the younger Bakers kind of blend together; with so much competition for screen time, it's hard for any of them to stand out from the crowd. The same goes for the movie as a whole, actually; like the middle Baker kids who fade into the background, Cheaper by the Dozen is pleasant and likable, but just not very exciting. Rather like Fox's second release of this title on DVD, in a "Baker's Dozen Edition": The anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio are good, while returning from the initial release are two commentaries — one from director Shawn Levy, the second with six young cast members — and eleven deleted scenes. New to this disc are four featurettes: "Frogs & Eggs" (8 min.), "Dylan's Birthday" (8 min.), "Director's Viewfinder: Creating a Fictional Family" (15 min.), and "Critters" (12 min.), along with two storyboard-to-screen comparisons and a scene from Cheaper by the Dozen 2. Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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