The Chronicles of a Witty Observer

A (Very, Very, Extremely, Painfully) Reluctant Review

I am not reviewing this of my own free will. An unnamed source, who WILL be receiving a lovely little package filled with rabid ferrets from me at a later date, insisted I review this film and compare it to the book.

Blasphemy, I say. It was in only one case in my entire life I enjoyed a film version better than a book, and both were bland enough I hardly remember either of them (The Princess Diaries). However, I accept this challenge halfway…seeing as I have NOT read the book version of Cheaper by the Dozen. I did, however, watch the film version for this very purpose, and after I finished, I cried a little, realizing I could’ve been watching Torchwood instead. Or even just reading a book. It would’ve been guaranteed to be an hour and a half better spent.

I honestly believe that she who wants me to review this is attempting to get a third-wave-feminist/Nostalgia-Critic-esque rant out of me. And by the Goddess, is she going to get one hell of a rant.

This movie managed to take the sentimentality out a family film, and replace it with more kid-humor and more evidence that Steve Martin needs to apologize to Gilda Radner, John Belushi, and Madeline Kahn for sinking so far from his glory days on SNL. You know, back when he was genuinely funny and didn’t have a string of forced physical humor to vomit onto a camera lens.

Not to mention, for a film that is supposed to appeal to all ages, the stereotypes are as thick as Sarah Palin’s skull, the portrayal of female characters are either derivative of 1950s feminism (aka ANTI-feminism), or 1980’s Shes-A-Yuppie-Ergo-She’s-a-Bitch mentality. Take either one, they’re both abundant in this flick and both are equally as insulting.

I haven’t even gotten into detail regarding this review.

A brief synopsis for those of you who are stupid enough not to guess it from the title and genre of the film itself: Steven Martin and Bonnie Hunt meet in college, both want big families regardless of living in middle-class America during the age of overpopulation and orphans in Asia being more abundant than water rats (disclaimer: I don’t know if this is really true) so they start popping ‘em out and move to the country. The wife, having the vagina, quits her job as an editor for The Chicago Tribune to be a full-time Stepford Wife/Mother, and the husband gets a job as a high school football coach to support their growing collection of brats.

Okay, first big problem: wouldn’t being a goddamned editor for the famous Tribune make more money than being a high school football coach? Can you even support a family of 14 in the huge house they live in on that kind of salary!?
Maybe they use food stamps or send the kids out to panhandle on weekends, I don’t know.

Anyways, the husband gets an even better job as a college football coach (closer, but I’m still not seeing where it could work, guys) and moves the family back to suburbia, where they somehow find a house that rivals a castle in size, can somehow afford it, and move in. Suddenly, the wife, who’s been writing this book about why she should’ve had the tubes ties after two her large, silly family, gets it published and must leave the husband alone with the kids while she goes on a book tour.

So, the vagina-bearing authority figure has a career again, guys. That means chaos and frozen dinners will ensue until further notice.

And that essentially takes up the hour of film we have left at this point.  Seriously, the father has NO parental skills whatsoever. As befitting a Nickelodeon-endorsed movie, kids are hanging off the rooftops, attempts to cook result in explosions, loads of butt/toilet humor, and very little in the way of sanity to stop them are all we see.

So, where to begin?

First off, you get to know NONE of the children beyond their shells and stereotypes, and each child has one. You have the yuppie oldest daughter who’s more interested in her boyfriend than her family, the moody teenager, the pretentious teenager, the tomboy/criminal mastermind, the shy nerd who doesn’t fit in with everyone else, the skater, the dumbass, the smart-ass, the puh-wecious pair of twins, and then the rest don’t do or say much other than stand/run around in the background. None of minors have souls, personalities, depth, or motivation.

I cannot stand this and you know it (ref: my reviews of Battle Royale/The Hunger Games). I may in the minority, but I still like to believe that one doesn’t have to be 18 to have depth. I hate how American media assumes that children and teenagers are essentially whiny, mopey brats with no worldly awareness whatsoever. They days of John Hughes, Home Alone, and The Breakfast Club really are over, and it saddens me to think that forevermore children will be played out to be the imbeciles you see in Cheaper By the Dozen.

Secondly, Steve Martin. I loved him in SNL and such films as The Jerk and Planes, Trains and Automobiles. But you just want to weep at the lows he sinks to in this movie. He sinks to potty humor, for Christ’s sake. Steve Martin is a wit. His Christmas Wish from SNL is still one of my favorite monologues. Why is he tripping over bad child actors and getting to say such masterful lines as ‘Why did you soak his underwear in meat?’ I can’t go on with this, it makes me depressed.

Probably the worst thing of all in this movie, beyond the bad writing, sub-par acting, and the annoying premise, is the message. It is possibly the most backwards message I’ve seen since I watched that documentary on the Westboro Baptist Church. The message of the movie is: the woman’s place is in the home as a mother and live-in sammich maker.

Seriously, watch the damn thing. It’s about as obvious as Tim Curry playing a villain. Bonnie Hunt quits her job to have lots of babies, loves it to death, gets a career, hates the career, and things at home fall apart because the father/husband is so painfully incompetent as raising a family, large as it is.

I mean, yes, 12 kids is a lot. I don’t think I could do a good job either. But it isn’t an impossible task to control twelve kids. The average teacher, male or female, can keep twice that many in line on any given day and be just fine. But nope. The mother has to come home and realize her place, and life goes back to normal. In this day and age, such a message in a family-friendly film, or in any film is just not acceptable…unless you’re Kirk Cameron. Then you can blame Jesus-induced zealous stupidity.

This film basically assumes children are animals to be tamed, women are meant to be in the kitchen, and men are just idiots in general. This is low even for a children’s movie.

There, I want my twenty bucks, You-Know-Who-You-Are!


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