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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Commentary - English: Dolby Digital Surround
  • Commentary - English: Dolby Digital Surround
  Subtitles
    English, Commentary - English
  Extras
  • Deleted scenes - +/- comm.
  • 2 Audio commentary
  • 4 Featurette
  • Storyboards - With Scene Comparison

Cheaper By the Dozen

20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 95 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Tom Baker and his wife Kate are loving parents to 12 obnoxious and very Disney children you would love to slap the snot out of.

Tom is played by Steve Martin, who here continues his long slide down the KY-lubed-up slip’n’slide of Hollywood mediocrity into puke-inducing family friendly comedy territory. His wife Kate is played by Bonnie Hunt. Bonnie Hunt?

Why Bonnie Hunt? Because the role of wife is obviously not important in this film, that’s why. Living a seemingly happy life in some soft-focussed generic mid-western town, Tom gets by as a low paid high school football coach who never quite made it, while Kate cares for the brood of quasi-demons, having gallantly given up a career in journalism to allow Tom to follow his dream of being a nobody schmuck.

Then, unexpectedly, just as I was about to turn off the dvd player out of sheer boredom and watch a video tape of old 'Giligan’s Island' episodes, Tom gets a call from an old friend offering him a dream coaching job. So while I put down the remote, they pack up their crap and move to the big smoke against the wishes of the resentful brats who don’t want to leave behind their friends.

But the kids don’t have to pay the bills, do they? So their opinion doesn’t count. Like Confuscious says, “Children should be smacked before they’re heard.”

So, a big new beautiful house, a high paying job, the kids in new schools with new friends and fresh trendy clothes—life should be sweet—and it is, for about one chapter (rule of thumb: one chapter = one day in the real world).

Soon, Kate is unexpectedly whisked away on a national book tour when her debut novel about life with 12 children is selected for publishing, leaving Tom to juggle the demands of family and the time intensive demands of his new job. Before long the cracks begin to show with his family and his career beginning to fall apart under the strain of not enough time to dedicate to doing both adequately.

In competent hands (i.e. not the hands of director Shawn Levy), a film like Cheaper by the Dozen would be a perfectly fine and entertaining comedy, if still incredibly predictable. But, an insurmountable problem (for me) arises when you realise early on that the children, young and old, are a bunch of detestable, selfish, little shits.

The obnoxious brood of self-centred children don’t do a damn thing to help Tom weather the storm (a storm they create, mind you), even though many of the kids are old enough to know better and they can clearly see the family unit is in disarray. And the reason for the kids to act like little arseholes? It’s supposed to be funny. Hahahaha…

Also not helping is the way sub-plots are treated like disliked toys at Christmas time – held up happily in the family snaps but quickly smashed to smithereens against the lumpy head of the retarded cousin once the parents have gone back to getting pissed on home-made wine.

One subplot in particular involves the eldest son (Tom Welling of televisions Smallville) being picked on at his new school by fellow students and the sports coach. Why did the writers even bother with this? There’s no resolution, no explanation (they obviously just wanna use the well worn “new kid in school not fitting in” cliché).

But as I mentioned earlier, you don’t give a damn about his predicament, because what has he done to help his father at home, besides mope around and act all broody? F*ck him, I say. Time to grow up, Superman. You’re old enough to drive a car, you’re old enough to rent porn, so you’re old enough to help out around the house and keep your brothers and sisters in line.

But naturally, this being a multiplex friendly serving of life (and successfully so in box-office dollars, some how, beats me) there’s a wholesome wrap-up delivered with preachy treacly sweet lessons that teaches we all love one another and do what’s best for the family when push comes to shove.

Ahem..*bullshit*..

Frankly, this film could have done with a healthy dose of realistic wog family justice – bring out the wooden spoon and beat all the kids to a bloody pulp for being little pricks and making things harder than they had to be. That would have resonated with the audience better than this tripe.

But in CBTD, nothing is ever harsher than a nasty stare, a minor insult or a slammed door. That sort of thing would have got you killed in my house, and quite possibly would have enraged my pop so much that he would have taken the doors off the hinges entirely. But it’s safe to safe that realism isn’t what they were aiming for here, but that’s pretty bloody obvious as well. Nope, a few laughs, a warming of the cockles of your heart and a good feeling in your pants top out their expectations of the typical audience, it’s just that I’ll be damned if I can figure out who that audience is meant to be. But I could live with that, if only there were a few more laughs to pad out the homely homily and sub-Brady Bunch antics.

I fully expect (unfortunately) that Steve Martin will be appearing in yet another family friendly comedy in short time.

Rest assured that I will not be reviewing that DVD.

  Video
Contract

A surprisingly quick turnaround from big screen to small screen, the picture is pleasant but not fantastic in the way some box-office killers are treated upon release. Richly saturated colours edge the tones just into the realm of being slightly too cooked at times. The picture is a little soft and has a minor grittiness from the grain that’s acceptable for event he most intolerant in these matters. There’s also a hint of edge enhancement visible, but again acceptable. All minor quibbles though, you’ll like the results and find nothing worth bitching about.

  Audio
Contract

Nice and easy listening, well balanced and non-adventurous, it comes on clear and strong with a pleasant tonal quality that you’ll have heard a billion times before. Place it at a comfortable level and the exaggerated little effects that go along with the sight gags sit comfortable amongst the dialogue, as forgettable as it is. The expectation for this kind of film is to simply be clear and uncluttered, with plenty of ‘whimsy’ and ‘up-ness’ to the accompanying score. Ticks all round, then.

  Extras
Contract

Some smartypants has seen fit to make certain that even though far more deserving flicks get the finger extras-wise, Cheaper by the Dozen is saddled with a pretty bounty, even if the content adds up to only so much lightweight fluff.

In no particular order, we get: 11 Deleted Scenes, with or without Commentary, should you wish to see scenes which are no better or worse that what was left in, yet still manage to make you hate the kids even more. Frogs and Eggs is a (not)brief(enough) featurette focussing on the early ‘frog lands on plate of scrambled eggs’ gag. Bwahahahaaaa. Indeed.

Dylan’s Birthday is exclusively about the exploding jumping castle gag. Weeeeeeeeee! Indeed. Promising something a little more substantial to digest, Director’s Viewfinder: Creating a Fictional Family sounds like a slightly more indepth featurette, but when you discover it’s just 15 minutes of the director crapping on about this and that like he just cured cancer or directed Citizen Kane, you quickly reach for the fastforward button on the remote that never seems to fast forward fast enough.

The final featurette is the boldly titled Critters. Could this be a hidden documentary on the noctural trashcan rummaging habits of John Howard, perhaps? Alas, t’was not to be, poor demented reader, for it was only a foray into world of the movie animal trainer. But then again, is it not time that the smaller person on such lofty productions was given his moment in the sun, to show his mother that he, too, was deemed worthy of a featurette on a DVD? Pity then that it just comes across as another waste of a few hundred megabytes of precious DVD space.

The ever-popular Storyboard to Scene Comparison rears its useless head once more. Just in case you think they made this film up as they went along (as I think they did), then the 2 sets of comparisons will attempt to prove otherwise. BUT, tell me, how do we know they didn’t just make the storyboards AFTER they shot the film? A bit of lateral thinking is all that was needed, though I doubt the filmmakers had that capacity for thought.

At long, painful, last, we arrive at the pivotal features of this release, the items that will force the buying public to question their own very existence - 2(!) Commentaries. The first, by Director Shawn Levy, awakened feelings of apathy in me that I never could have believed I possessed. I was so moved that after 15 minutes I decided that life was far too short to be wasted listening to some amateur twat prattle on about crap that had no bearing on my life whatsoever. Then, surprising myself, I began to listen to the second commentary, which features the entire children's cast. Lord knows I already hated the kids for the crap they do in the film, but after sampling 12 seconds of their inane babbling in chapter 12, I wished them all dead. Harsh, I know, but also fair.

And, if you’re really really sick in the head, and just live for Easter Eggs, go to the Special Features screen, move down to the Featurettes link, move to the right and the silhouette of a dog will appear. Click it and you can view footage of Ashton Kutcher disappearing up his own butt.

  Overall  
Contract

I’m completely underwhelmed by both the film and the DVD. Sure, it tries to pack in a few extra things for the greedy extra-freaks amongst us, but it’s just so much overcooked puff pastry that crumbles in your mouth far too easily leaving custard to squirt onto your t-shirt and a hollow feeling inside your belly, and the same can be said for the film.

Personally, I’m still hoping that Martin can pack a big final punch before he decides that he’s no longer interested in being in front of the camera.

On a positive note, the technical quality of the picture and sound is basically faultless though, so when you see someone considering buying this DVD in a store, tell ‘em the film is a messy bunch of silly drivel, but it is at least presented on a solid disc. They’ll look at you thinking “Hey, this stud/studess sounds pretty damn smart, they must read DVDnet!”, and then they’ll punch you in the forehead. It’ll serve you right for shooting off your mouth like a smart-alec. Who do you think you are? Me? Bwaaaaaaaaahaaaaaaaahaaaaaaaaa!

You make me laugh..


  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=4025
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      And I quote...
    "I fully expect (unfortunately) that Steve Martin will be appearing in yet another family-friendly comedy in short time."
    - Vince Carrozza
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Sony DVP-NS730P
    • TV:
          Philips 55PP8620
    • Receiver:
          Sony STR-DB1070
    • Speakers:
          Wharfedale s500
    • Centre Speaker:
          Polk Audio CS245
    • Surrounds:
          Wharfedale WH-2
    • Subwoofer:
          DB Dynamics TITAN
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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