This remake ofCheaper by the Dozen, like the original, focuses on the Baker family. Father Tom Baker (Steve Martin) and mother Kate Baker (Bonnie Hunt) decided to have 12 children. The children range from 5 years old to 22 years old. Nora (Piper Perabo) is the oldest child and the one who lives outside the home. Tom coaches Division III football at the small Lincoln College. When Tom’s old teammate Shake Maguire (Richard Jenkins) shows up to offer Tom a big fat contract to coach Division I at Illinois Poly Uni…ersity, Tom decides to take the job. The obvious catch is that Tom and his ENTIRE family must move from Chicago to Illinois.
The second oldest child Charlie Baker (Tom Welling) is the star quarterback of his team. Charlie leads his siblings in voting on the decision not to move. Tom and Kate decide it’s in the family’s best interests to move. The kids, for the most part, are complete brats and are extremely annoying (I guess ALL children are right)?
Cheaper by the Dozen doesn’t really have a too complex plot that one can understand right away. The film follows the MANY, MANY issues the Baker family follows from Tom losing touch with his family because of his hectic work schedule to Kate being away for two weeks to promote her new book. The kids, naturally, shout, run, scream and create tons of trouble for poor old Tom. None of the children, despite their best efforts, ever develop any type of ability to have the audience like them. The film seems to want to mock the Baker’s new neighbors, who are very wealthy, for not liking the Baker’s. Honestly though, who could blame them as the Baker’s, as a whole, are quite annoying and rambunctious. The overall feel of the film creates a type of comedy, in some sense, that makes you want to feel for the family, but fails in the end to do annoying characters.
Cheaper by the Dozen appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While the transfer generally seemed to be fine, a few nagging issues caused it to fall short of greatness. Sharpness offered a slightly mixed bag. At times, the film seemed mildly defined, particularly in wide shots. The softness didn’t appear heavy, but it created some minor distractions. Print flaws occasionally manifested themselves via some specks and grit, but these remained fairly infrequent. For the most part, the film’s colors seemed solid. The film originally displayed a broad palette, and the DVD replicated these tones reasonably nicely. Occasionally the hues seemed a little too saturated, but the usually seemed natural and accurate. Flaws like this marred what could have been a solid picture.
Comedies don’t usually provide much in the audio department, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Cheaper by the Dozen fell into line with expectations. The soundfield seemed heavily oriented toward the front, but it seemed to be fairly engaging nonetheless. Dialogue sounded very clear with no real noticeable blocking areas. A few shots used the surrounds more actively, like during a game of indoor hockey or at the airport, but those occasions occurred infrequently. Audio quality appeared fine. Music showed nice range and clarity, and the bass response demonstrated a reasonably solid punch. Effects were bright and accurate, and they also showed good depth when appropriate. Nothing about the soundtrack stood out as exceptional, but the mix seemed decent for this sort of flick.
As with the prior disc, a mix of supplements show up for Cheaper by the Dozen. We get everything from the old release plus a few new components. I’ll designate materials exclusive to this “Baker’s Dozen Edition” with an asterisk, so if you fail to see a star, the component also appears on the original set.
- Director Commentary with Shawn Levy: A mix of the interesting and the banal, the commentary seems too inconsistent to become a true success. Levy covers a number of topics. He gets into how he came onto the film, casting, sets and locations, improvisation and changes from the script, edits and shaping the story, minor effects and stunts, and a bunch of other things. Some of the better notes involve the actors, such as the contrast of the styles preferred by Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt. Levy seems lively, personable, and extremely enthusiastic from start to finish. Far too much of the time he tells tell us how great the participants are and how much he loves various elements of the film. His zeal helps make these frequent bouts of praise more tolerable, but they still get tiresome. Occasional moderate patches of dead air also occur, though not often. Fans of Dozen will learn enough to make this track useful, but it falls short of greatness.
- Actor Commentary: The second commentary presents actors Alyson Stoner, Jacob Smith, Kevin Schmidt, Morgan York, Liliana Mumy, and Piper Perabo. All of them sit together for a running, screen-specific discussion except for Perabo; her comments come from a separate session and get edited into the rest. More and more DVDs feature kiddie commentaries these days, and they uniformly seem unsatisfying. This one falls firmly into that category. Don’t expect to learn much about the movie. Instead, the kids chat about all the scenes they love. Not that the piece would be interesting without their antics, but their behavior makes it more chaotic and incoherent than otherwise might be the case. A frantic and generally useless discussion.
- Deleted/Extended Scenes (19:41): Five of these appeared on the prior DVD, but the other six are exclusive to this set. Most are brief and insubstantial, though one major addition occurs: a segment in which Eileen Brennan plays an elderly babysitter the kids seek to torment. We also get a more detailed look at the disruptions at Dylan’s birthday party as well as a little more with Ashton Kutcher’s character.
- Storyboard-to-Screen Comparison: Two comparisons here with the first being “Frogs and Eggs” (2:05)) and “Dylan’s Birthday Party” (1:12). These use the standard format with the art on the top of the screen and the movie on the bottom. For fans of storyboards, they’ll be interesting to see.
- Frogs and Eggs (8:09): This feature presents movie snippets, shots from the set, and comments from Levy, Mumy, co-screenwriter Sam Harper, special effects director David Kelsey, and production designer Nina Ruscio. The show digs into the details of Beans the frog’s fall into the bowl of eggs. We learn about the high and low-tech methods used for the scene as well as its origins and challenges. This turns into a surprisingly tight and informative piece.
- Dylan’s Birthday (7:57): In this feature we hear from Levy, Harper, Kelsey, Ruscio and stunt coordinator Ernie Orsatti, “Birthday” is similar to “Eggs” in the way it digs into various elements of the sequence. We learn about stunts and pressures to engage Steve Martin in physical comedy during this lively program.
- Director’s Viewfinder: Creating a Fictional Family (4:50): In this feature, Levy discusses how he came onto the project, casting, the atmosphere on the set, and his thoughts about family films. In addition to his interviews, we see some clips from the set. The piece seems somewhat fluffy but reasonably informative given its length. The footage from the shoot offers the best parts, as we see some interesting moments.
- Critters (12:12):, This feature looks at the movie’s animals with comments from Levy and animal trainer Mike Alexander. We learn about casting the dog and training issues along with topics related to the frog and snake. It’s another informative and useful program.
- Trailers: Oddly enough, the trailer domain fails to include an ad for Cheaper. It does promote two upcoming sequels, though: Like Mike 2 and Dr. Dolittle 3.
- Inside Look (1:51): Actor Alyson Stoner hosts this brief ad on Cheaper by the Dozen 2. We also get an attempt at humor that involves co-star Carmen Electra. Exclusive Sneak Peek (1:51) A scene from the new movie in which Steve Martin gets injured knee-boarding.
- Surprise Easter Egg: First off, how can this be a surprise if it’s announced on the package? To access this ‘surprise’ Highlight “Main Menu” on the “Special Features” page and then press right and enter. This 53-second clip shows Ashton Kutcher’s fake ad in all its glory. We can watch it with or without commentary from Levy. He tells us a little about its creation.
Since I think highly of actors Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt, I wanted to like Cheaper By the Dozen. Unfortunately, despite their best efforts, the movie seemed silly and cheesy, with many cheap gags and too much easy sentimentality. Picture and audio quality appeared good but unexceptional, while the supplements are decent. One audio commentary seems moderately informative while the other is pretty useless. A fair DVD for a weak film, I find no reason to recommend the unlikable Cheaper by the Dozen. If you already know you like the movie and wonder if this package merits an “upgrade”, I’d say no. Some of the new supplements are just fine, but there are not enough of them to warrant an additional purchase. If you don’t have the old disc and want to own Cheaper, I’d definitely recommend this “Baker’s Dozen Edition”, as it’s definitely the superior of the two.
Purse strings note: This DVD comes with a “Movie Money” offer to get you into theatrical screenings of the sequel. It’s good from November 22, 2005 through January 21, 2006, so if you read this review after that period, you’re out of luck!
Special Features List
- Sneak peek at Cheaper by the Dozen 2
- 6 never-before-seen deleted/extended scenes
- 4 all-new featurettes
- storyboard-to-screen comparisons
- Surprise easter egg
- Audio commentary by director Shawn Levy
- Audio commentary by the Baker kids
- More deleted/extended scenes