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Featured Blu-ray: Cheaper By the Dozen 2

February 4th, 2010

Cheaper by the Dozen 2 - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

In 2003 Cheaper by the Dozen was released in theaters. It was a pseudo-remake of a film from 1950, which in turn was based on the Gilbreth family and the book they wrote about their life. Cheaper by the Dozen wasn't exactly a critical success, but for much of the cast it was and remains their biggest box office hit. It was inevitable that there would be a sequel and in 2005 Cheaper by the Dozen 2 came out. However, it wasn't able to live up to the original at the box office (although it was still a very solid midlevel hit and I'm sure it made the studio a profit). Was this drop-off at the box office a direct result of a similar drop-off in quality, or was there something else in play here?

First, let's start with a brief recap of the first film, which I didn't see before getting a chance to review this one. (I actually went out and bought it on DVD, just to quickly watch it so I could compare the quality of the two films. I was going to buy it on Blu-ray, but it hasn't been released on Blu-ray yet. I have no idea why they are releasing the sequel first.) Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt star as Tom and Kate Baker, a loving couple who just happen to have 12 kids. In the first movie, they have difficulty keeping the family under control after Tom accepts a promotion in the city and Kate goes off to promote the book she wrote about her family.

In the sequel, the eldest of the Baker clan, Nora, is married and extremely pregnant, Charlie is working his way through college, while Lorraine is about to head to New York city. Tom sees this as potentially the last time his family will all be together, so he packs them all up for a family vacation at the lake. However, when they get there, the cabin he rented is in disrepair and doesn't live up to his fond memories. Worst of all, his nemesis, Jimmy Murtaugh, is there with his eight kids, and his new trophy wife, and Tom and Jim quickly get back to their ultracompetitive ways.

Meanwhile, there are a couple of B-stories as well. This includes Sarah's coming of age story where she changes from the Tomboy of the first movie and has her first date. Also, Charlie Baker and Anne Murtaugh connect because both have to tell their parents they don't want to live the lives their parents envisioned.

Cheaper by the Dozen 2 earned some of the worst reviews for the year, Rotten Tomatoes even ranks it as one of the Worst of the Decade. Is it truly a terrible movie? No. I've reviewed plenty of terrible movies and this isn't one of them. What this is, is paint-by-numbers filmmaking. There is almost nothing in this movie that is fresh or original and the waste of a talented cast borders on criminal. Even most of the child actors were mostly wasted and going into the movie you know the filmmakers could not possibly find screen time for all 20 of them. (Alyson Stoner was the only member of the cast who I thought was given enough to justify her being in the movie. On the other end of the spectrum, was Kevin Schmidt even in this movie? (And that's not meant as an insult to the actor; it's just that his character was practically invisible.))

In short: it is not a good movie, but it is not one of the worst I've seen either.

Extras on the Blu-ray are identical to the extras on the previously released DVD. There's an audio commentary track with the director Adam Shankman, who doesn't really try to defend the movie as much as I was expecting. He even makes fun of some of the plot holes in the movie and says that the kids should be in jail. There are three featurettes that range in length from five minutes to twelve minutes that focus mostly on the cast. Fox Movie Channel Presents "Casting Session" talks about how they cast the new actors for the movie and how important it was that they had chemistry with the old. A Comedic Trio deals with the three mains leads: Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt, and Eugene Levy. Finally, Camp Chaos is a behind-the-scenes / making-of featurette. As for the film's technical presentation... it's merely adequate. This isn't a movie that needs to be seen in High Definition to be enjoyed, so adequate is fine. Also, the price is $20, which is on the high side for a catalogue title.

The Verdict

While Cheaper by the Dozen 2 is not as bad as its reputation, it is far from a good movie. Even fans of the first movie will not find a lot to applaud here. In addition, the Blu-ray is pure shovelware and it is hard to recommend buying even for fans of the movie, unless you can grab it for substantially less than half the list price.

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