Back Shelf Beauties
by Willie Waffle

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Cheaper By The Dozen 2

After making Shopgirl, it appears Steve Martin had a lobotomy. How else do you explain his acting in this movie? It's one thing to do Cheaper By The Dozen 2 for the cash, it's another to humiliate yourself with the kind of pratfalls and overacting best left to Martin Lawrence or Tom Green.

Martin is back as Tom Baker - father of 12 kids who used to be a college football coach in the first movie (the classic Yule-tide film Cheaper By The Dozen, which sounds more entertaining when you say it with your tongue firmly in cheek), but he quit to spend more time with the children when his wife's, Kate (Bonnie Hunt), book about their lives sold so many copies, working isn't necessary anymore (I can feel the jealousy building up inside of me as I write the line, and don't forget to buy Back Shelf Beauties as the perfect stocking stuffer present this holiday season!). Daughter Lorraine (Hilary Duff) is about to move to New York to take an internship with a product placement fashion magazine (when she reads a copy of the magazine in the movie, look closely because I think Hilary Duff is on the cover, too), and oldest daughter, Nora (Piper Perabo) is pregnant and moving to a new city, so Tom wants to do something special. Since this could be the last time the family is all in one place, Tom convinces the kids and Kate to head up to their favorite summer vacation spot, Lake Winnetka, for one last great getaway as a family. Once there, they realize the lake is not what it used to be, but an old rivalry is reborn between Tom and longtime nemesis Jimmy Murtaugh (Eugene "I'll do anything for a paycheck" Levy).

Will the Kate and the kids all get dragged into this battle?

Cheaper By The Dozen 2 suffers from many of the same problems I had with Yours, Mine and Ours, which was an attempt to siphon off the success of Cheaper By The Dozen (it's a merry go round and I want to get off!). Many of the kids aren't needed and might not even have names for all I could tell. Most scenes involve a set up, segue to some wacky disaster that makes the kids scream bloody murder and end with some sort of humiliation for one of the adults, often in the form getting pushed into the water or having something gross dumped on them. One guy in a wheelchair even gets pushed into the lake TWICE, which might be the nadir of comedy in 2005. Worst of all, in the spirit of The Pacifier's Duck and the pig in Yours, Mine and Ours, a RAT becomes a featured player who often shows up Steve Martin and everyone else in the cast.

Ultimately, Cheaper By The Dozen 2's biggest sin is the embarrassment of Bonnie Hunt - quite possibly the last bastion of good taste and class in Hollywood if there ever was such a thing). In one sequence, Hunt's character has some liquid dumped on her, which leads to her walking around in a wet t-shirt, then she must don a loaned replacement shirt, with the kind of design you might see on a low rent porn movie or worn by a dancer in a rap video. Once again, a talented, intelligent woman is reduced to being a piece of meat whose worth is measured by her bra size and willingness to display it. Welcome to the Maxim generation Bonnie.

Cheaper By The Dozen 2 has some nice, touching family moments like when tween Sarah Baker (Alyson Stoner) is falling in love for the first time with Eliot Murtaugh (Taylor "Sharkboy" Lautner, who, even though he is 11-years old, looks like he is wearing a toupee for some odd reason), and the family tries to help her work through these difficult growing pains and awkward moments, but the movie doesn't deliver the kind of high quality you get from other movies at this time of year.

Cheaper By The Dozen 2 should sell tickets much cheaper than full price. Even the outtakes and bloopers they show you at the end of the movie stink!  Maybe the Cineplex can include free popcorn and soda to make up for it.  

1 ½ Waffles (Out Of 4)

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