Cheaper by the Dozen 2
Directed by Adam Shankman. Starring Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt, Eugene Levy, Piper Perabo, Carmen Electra, Eugene Levy, Hilary Duff, Tom Welling, Alyson Stoner. (2005, PG, 100 min.)
REVIEWED By Marrit Ingman, Fri., Dec. 23, 2005
It’s the snobs vs. the slobs! And this holiday’s no picnic! Choreographer-turned-director Shankman (Martin-starrer Bringing Down the House) takes the wheel of this unasked-for sequel, which fuses the original concept with the well-worn formula of the family-vacation romp (think Summer Rental and The Great Outdoors). On the halcyon shores of Wisconsin’s Lake Winnetka, we find once more intrusive, loathsome yuppies (Levy and Electra), meddlesome rodents (a kleptomaniac CGI mouse nicknamed "The Chiseler"), and a stuffy country club whose doyen battles our heroes for some kind of trophy in the third act (you have seen Summer Rental, correct?). The filmmakers stop short of actually exhuming John Candy, for which viewers can be thankful, but they’re otherwise shameless. When Tom Baker (Martin) corrals his brood of 12 for old-fashioned bonding up at the lake, the gang promptly runs afoul of Jimmy Murtaugh (Levy, the perennial B-comedy go-to guy), a corporate blowhard who owns the surrounding property with his blow-up trophy wife (Electra, who gamely makes sport of herself). There’s various business involving some of the children (Perabo is pregnant; Duff is moving to New York; tomboyish tween Sarah (Stoner) has a first crush on one of the Murtaugh boys), but the others remain undifferentiated. (I liked the fat kid who wears a series of ironic T-shirts, but his role in the movie is unclear.) Meanwhile, the two dads compete to see who can be more obnoxious to his children. Generally I like a movie that characterizes the rich as pushy, soulless, competitive, authoritarian jerks with poor taste who never actually have fun, and there’s a staggeringly candid moment in which the two moms cry into their grocery carts about how they actually have no idea what they’re doing and are in fact confused and miserable. Points also for the movie’s message: "There’s no way to be a perfect parent but about a million ways to be a good one," says new mom Perabo (Coyote Ugly), who then goes on to buckle a newborn into a front-facing car seat. Hunt is marvelous and down-to-earth – at mealtime she throws food across the table to her hungry kids – but the rest of the movie is as funny as mildew, unless you really like watching Martin dance like a dork and get socked in the scrotum, or you really need to see Electra getting humped by a dog. There was a time in our nation’s history when watching Martin and Levy logrolling would be comedy gold, but that time is past – now it’s just ado before getting socked in the scrotum. The product placement is particularly egregious, even if we charitably accept the appearance of Duff (who looks as tanned and raw as buffalo jerky) as something other than product placement. Ostensibly the film’s holiday release is meant to breathe summery life into your winter vacation, but really this sequel needs a sitting-duck family audience. In the dog-eat-dog summer season, it’d be hamburger.