Cheaper by the Dozen (2003)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Cheaper by the Dozen</strong> (2003)

(On TV, January 2016) Much has been made of Steve Martin’s migration from the world of stand-up performances to that of a movie actor, and nearly twenty-five years after The Jerk, mainstream comedy Cheaper by the Dozen does seem to be the end-point of that transition. As safe, predictable and family-friendly as it’s possible to be, Cheaper by the Dozen goes for the big populist laughs, the easy traditional values, the broad mugging for the camera and the most formulaic path from premise to conclusion. It’s (generally speaking) about a couple with a dozen kids, but it’s also (more specifically) about a man trying to hold a household together after accepting a new job and seeing his wife go away on an extended business trip. Its main selling point is watching Martin making exasperated faces as chaos reigns around him, then smiling the grin of the content family man once those little issues have been resolved. It does work reasonably well at what it intends to be: the kind of movie that no-one really hates, that can fit into just any cable channel’s line-up and which attracts practically no ill-will nor any lasting memory minutes after the closing credits. Fortunately, Martin is (or was, at the time of the film’s production) one of the best at portraying good dads, and presumably made quite a bit of money doing something far more reliable than stand-up comedy. The result may not be the fullest use of his talents, but who are we to second-guess such a successful decision? There’s a fair case to be made that Cheaper by the Dozen (and plenty of other movies in his filmography) would have been much worse without him.

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