First things first: Hilary Duff, Who the hell died and left you King of the Horsey Clowns?! What happened to you, girl? You’re 19 years old and it looks like you’ve got enough Botox in your face to make Estelle Getty a prize prom date. And what’s up with the teeth whitener — that shit ain’t street grade, is it? Lay off it, honey. Honestly, you walk under a blue light and Stevie Wonder would get his sight back. I know this thing with Lindsay Lohan has got to be stressful, but it’s no excuse for getting rid of your second layer of epidermis; I don’t care how thin it makes you look — it protects the muscle tissue from the sunlight and cold. And your eyeballs go inside the sockets; leave some room in there. And, damn: Cheekbones are nice and all, but you might want to consider giving the other parts of your face some screen time. When you weigh less than your hair extensions, you know it’s time to fill up on some dark meat, girl. Put away the laxatives and pick up a fucking Hershey’s, and please stay off the screen until you do.
Second: Adam Shankman. Who in God’s name keeps giving you directing gigs? It wasn’t bad enough that you single-handedly ruined Steve Martin’s acting cred with Bringing Down the House, now you got to strip the poor man of his dignity, too? Second to Brian Levant, you have got to be the mostly consistently awful director in Hollywood, and yet these asshole studio executives continue to throw money and hookers at you in the hopes that you can somehow bring that elusive charm and whimsy to Vin Diesel changing a shitty diaper. And they gave you Hairspray?! What. The. Fuck! You going to put Steve Martin in this one, too; have the poor man filling the role of Sunny Bono? Leave him alone, damn it! He’s a screen legend. Back the fuck off for a minute; do some straight-to-video work for the cast of The Ringer. They might appreciate you, ‘cause I don’t know nobody else that does. You’re a fucking disgrace to hacks, man.
A small confession: I didn’t hate the original Cheaper by the Dozen. I understand that, in some circles, I could get my reviewing credentials taken away for writing that (if I had any credentials to begin with). But, I’m terrified of flying, and I was 32,000 feet in the air when they foisted that damn movie onto me; I tried to look away, but the lure of shitty $5 headphones and stale pretzels was too much for me to take. And if there was one surefire way to get me teary, it’s a close-up of Steve Martin while his daughter is giving birth or when he’s trying to “let go” of one of his children. It’s mawkish as all hell, but I fall for it every fucking time. It’s not bad enough that I can’t turn away from Father of the Bride each and every time TBS reruns it, but I’ll even sit through Father of the Bride II just to see the look on Martin’s face after both his wife and his daughter have delivered newborns.
Steve Martin has a way of bringing out the ugly side of my personality, of cutting through the jaded cynicism, the profanity, and what little intelligence I have. I’m not proud of it, but Steve Martin as “family comedy father” is my reviewing kryptonite, and to be honest, I shouldn’t be allowed within 50 feet of one of these hack jobs. Steve Martin as post-L.A. Story funnyman, I could kick to the curb; Steve Martin as dramatic actor, I could take or leave; but when Steve Martin plays any variation on his George Banks character, my fatherly instincts are tugged and pulled and bitch-slapped until I run home begging to start my own litter of children, just so I can spend my life shaming and humiliating them in faux-Martinesque fashion. Show me screwball Steve Martin complete with pratfallin’ zaniness, and I might offer up an occasional laugh; but show me Steve Martin playing basketball with his daughter the night before her wedding, and I’m a goddamn puddle, no more cinematically discriminating than the guy down the street who sells siding.
Does that mean I’m recommending Cheaper by the Dozen 2? Hell no! It’s the lowest grade of family entertainment. It’s cheap, sentimental tripe, and just because I have a weakness for Steve Martin’s misty-eyed money shot, doesn’t mean that anyone else should have to suffer through this hokum-filled, market-driven bullshit, replete with crotch injuries, obnoxiously precocious kids, and a criminally unfunny Eugene Levy (who should stick to the Christopher Guest movies).
If you’re interested (and god knows you shouldn’t be), Cheaper 2 follows the Baker dozen into bad Chevy-Chase vacation land, where the clan takes up residence at a crummy little lake house over Labor Day weekend as their last family hurrah before several of the kids go out and find their own lives. The eldest daughter (Piper Perabo) is pregnant; the eldest son (Tom Welling) is having occupational difficulties; Hilary Duff just graduated high school; one of the teenage girls is beginning to like boys; and the rest of the little snot-nosed fuckers provide periodic filler material in what can only be described as a very long “Brady Bunch” television movie.
Across from the Bakers’ lake house rests the Murtaugh estate, owned by one James Murtaugh (Eugene Levy), longtime nemesis and seed-giver of his own eight Ivy-League hellions. He’s rich, he’s married to Carmen Electra, and his perfectly coifed hair doesn’t move while he’s water skiing; in other words, he’s a prick. So, for 90 minutes or so, Tom and James backbite and try to out-compete one another until, alas (!), the families finally come together over a potato-sack race and labor pains. It’s a real goddamn treat, if you’re into lame hijinx, stupid pratfalls, and the occasional shot of Carmen Elektra’s bare midriff.
If you’re a sucker for this sort of thing, Bonnie Hunt and Steve Martin do occasionally provide a bit of warmth, and Adam Shankman milks that Steve Martin close-up for all it’s worth (and it’s worth enough to get me every goddamn time), but Cheaper by the Dozen II mostly just serves to remind us that Hollywood will stoop to any length to get rob you blind during the holiday season, and that, above all, “family comedy” means buying five tickets at the box office instead of just the one.
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba and managing partner of its parent company, which prefers to remain anonymous for reasons pertaining to public relations. He lives in Ithaca, New York.Cheaper by the Dozen 2 / Dustin Rowles
Film | May 13, 2006 | Comments ()