I was going through some stuff I had from old websites and some were too good/sentimental/hilarious to not repost so for the next week or 2 (however many I have of these) I’m going to schedule a repost of some of these articles. For the first one, I bring you my scathing review of the movie Cheaper by the Dozen, which is easily one of the worst movies ever made. I wrote this back in 2003 when the movie came out, but it’s remained a bit of an inside joke in my house “oh look our favorite movie is on” when it is on TV. Wow, did I ever hate that movie.
Cheaper by the Dozen (2003), ZERO STARS (out of an arbitrary 4)
Steve Martin – the Dad who busts his ass for nothing
Bonnie Hunt – “the Mom”
Various – the bratty little kids who I wanted to get hit by a bus
Ok so the story is there’s this huge family and it’s hard to make ends meet. No big surprises there. After this typical set-up which I was willing to ignore for comedic purposes, I expected the hilarity to ensue due to the presence of the hilarious SNL veteran Steve Martin and the often hilarious (and under-appreciated) Bonnie Hunt who plays his wife. Instead I wanted to shoot myself in the face. Now, I read Roger Ebert’s review and I think he’s losing it in his old age. He loved this movie and the only reason I can think of is that maybe he watched an entirely different movie than any of the other critics and myself. Here’s why:
At the beginning of the movie the family is functioning as a team, doing things like making breakfast together and getting each other ready for school. Then when the father (Martin) gets a job in the city, they have to move. His job is to be the coach of a University football team and with this job comes several perks such as FREE UNIVERSITY FOR HIS KIDS!!! There’s 12 of them!!! BUT before the move, during the move, AND after the move all Dad can do is explain to his kids that this is HIS dream job and it makes HIM happy so suck it up when what he should be saying is “HEL-LO KIDS, FREE UNIVERSITY!!!” so of course all the kids do is whine because they think he’s being a selfish bastard.
Then they get there. It’s this massive mansion where every kid gets their own room, they have a huge yard to play in, they can afford new clothes instead of hand-me-downs, they get to go to a better school, etc etc… Is this good enough for the kids? Apparently not because they are immediately miserable despite this huge improvement from the crowded shack they were living in before. When the kids go to their new school they are picked on by other kids that are something out of an evil textbook. No kids behave this way! While I get that kids at school wouldn’t necessarily be all that nice to “the new kids from the country”, they would NOT be as outwardly aggressive and mean as they were in this movie. Also, there’s no way that the two older kids would not be popular as the girl (Hilary Duff) was this self-centered fashion guru and the guy was A) attractive and B) football player and C) had a dad who coached the university team.
And here’s the rub. The Mom (Hunt) gets a book deal for the novel she’s been writing about the family and has to go on a book tour. Now here’s the thing. The company asks her to go away for the weekend to New York and while she’s there they spring this 2 week book tour on her knowing she has a family at home and gives her the ultimatum that she either goes on this book tour NOW or there’s no book. 1) She’d only packed for the weekend, wouldn’t she have to return home anyway to get enough stuff to last her 2 weeks and to make arrangements for her to be gone that long? 2) What the hell kind of publishing company would force anyone to go on a book tour without first securing everything ELSE going on in their life? 3) What kind of publishing company organizes a massive book tour (including spots on Regis and Kelly AND Oprah) apparently without printing a single book hence the ultimatum? And aren’t there plenty of authors who don’t do all that crap?
Aaaaaanyway, Mom goes on this book tour which leaves Dad home alone to watch the kids. His selfish adult daughter won’t help him out because she wants to hang out with her boyfriend (played by Ashton Kutcher and arguably the only likeable character in the movie) and his two other teenagers are apparently useless because they are never even considered when Dad calls a babysitting company to help him out. Smart move I guess except on the phone he keeps telling them that he needs a sitter for 12 kids. First of all, he has two teenagers and second he has adult daughter that doesn’t even live at home! At the very least he should have either A) said he had 11 kids because logically no one in their right mind would include the kid that doesn’t even live there B) said he had 9 kids because the teenagers don’t need to be babysat C) hired (gasp) TWO sitters or D) had the older kids look after half of the kids and a sitter look after 3 or 4 of the rest.
Any number of reasonable solutions to this non-problem could have been used. This is another one of those situations that could have been avoided if people simply employed some sensibility. I have no respect for movies that want us to ignore these details “because if they didn’t happen we wouldn’t have a movie”. Maybe that’s just an indication that it shouldn’t be a movie in the first place. These inconsistencies aside, what gets me the most, and I mean this really chaps my ass, is that these people can’t seem to realize that Mom is only gone for TWO WEEKS!!! These kids were reasonably well-behaved before but for some reason they can’t seem to contain themselves for two stupid weeks! These are the most selfish, spoiled, unlikable kids I have ever seen in a movie.
*SPOILERS (EVEN MORE THAN ABOVE)*
At the end Dad quits for the sake of the family. Sake of the family? Are we forgetting that the cost of university for 12 kids will be upwards of a million dollars to go to decent schools for 4 years each (in the US) and that’s assuming at least a few will get scholarships? Gah! Why could these kids not simply behave for 2 weeks so their dad could do his job when the movie was opened with this well-oiled family machine in the old house? We expect that they are going to move back to their old house but they don’t and yet everything is happily ever after.
We are left with a lot of unanswered questions in this movie. How are they still able to afford that house when it was a perk from the university at which Dad no longer works? Why, when those kids could ban together to find their missing brother, could they not handle another family “crisis” (their mom being gone) which would only have required that they behave and accept the fact that dad is going to be busy these few weeks and mom will be back later? Why is everyone all happy all of a sudden at the end when Dad quits despite the fact that they are living in the same place and therefore going to the same school with the same contrived problems and now their dad isn’t as happy because he doesn’t have his dream job anymore? Why are the kids in a family of 12 so spoiled and so used to their dad’s attention? Shouldn’t the kids in a family that big be a little more independent? Why did the Oprah people cancel just because of a simple family tiff – are they supposed to be perfect? What kind of lesson are these kids learning here?
Lessons I’ve learned from this movie: if I want something all I have to do is whine a lot and make myself as annoying as possible until eventually things work out my way again and someone else is miserable instead of me because I can’t simply have the patience to wait 2 fucking weeks for a non-problem to resolve itself. This movie was hell ass goddamn infuriating.