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Cheaper by the Dozen 2

Perhaps too often, movie critics often find themselves drawn to food analogies. But it's fair enough — cooking is the most closely analogous art form to filmmaking, since both practices require ingredients to be brought together by a chef (or a director), who then labors to create the final product. Of course, such analogies are too often belabored, but they serve their purpose. And if Cheaper by the Dozen 2 (2005) has a food-based analogue, it's hospital Jell-O. It has no aspirations of greatness. It's not particularly memorable. It's odorless. It's inoffensive. And it's entirely disposable. And to its credit, it's the sort of film a family could go to and rest assured that no one is going to be offended or in any way emotionally provoked. Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt star as Tom and Kate Baker, who have had 12 children and are now in the time of their lives when their eldest have begun to leave the nest. With daughter Nora (Piper Perabo) moving to Texas and Lorraine (Hilary Duff) going to college, Tom decides that the family needs to spend some quality time together up at the summer home they spent so many summers at years before. Across the way is Jimmy Murtaugh (Eugene Levy), who owns most of the rest of the area, is very rich, has a new trophy wife (Carmen Electra) and eight children, and can't help but get into an alpha-male fight with Tom. Of course, Jimmy has a daughter, Anne (Jaime King), who's the perfect age for Charlie Baker (Tom Welling), and two of the younger ones also pair up (for a film about exceptionally large families, coital humor or the implications of people having it is kept to the barest of minimums). All the while, pratfalls and bad mugging ensue. Cheaper by the Dozen 2 was directed by Adam Shankman (best known for the equally anonymous The Pacifier), who lets Martin and Levy go on autopilot for the 94-min. running time without ever getting either of them to do anything all that funny (unless one finds falling down uproarious). In fact, Hunt and Electra offer more laughs, but with 20 children and four parents there's not enough screen-time for anyone. The most shameful thing about the movie is that it's exactly as useless and flavorless as one would expect a sequel to 2003's Cheaper by the Dozen to be. At least everyone seems happy to cash their checks. Fox presents Cheaper by the Dozen 2 on DVD in a two-disc set with a good anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) on one disc and pan-and-scan on the other, both with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Both discs include the same commentary with Shankman, while the pan-and-scan features "Fox Movie Channel presents: Casting Session" (6 min.), and trailers for this and Big Momma's House 2, while the letterboxed version offers the featurettes "Camp Chaos" (8 min.) and "A Comedic Trio" (4 min.). Dual-DVD slimline keep-case.

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