3 stars (out of four)
The most recent installment in what can only be called the "Overpopulation is Wacky" trilogy, Steve Martin's "Cheaper by the Dozen 2" is superior to its predecessors.Compared with Martin's first "Dozen" and the recent mega-family movie "Yours, Mine and Ours," this sequel is Academy Award material.
I can already see this quoted in movie ads, taken way out of context. So, let me qualify: This is "compared with."
Those films were broad strokes: insipid, marginally chuckle-worthy airline movies. Director Adam Shankman's "Cheaper by the Dozen 2" is a harmless, inoffensive bit of family programming during the holiday season -- and there's nothing wrong with that. But "harmless" doesn't have to mean dull, and this is where "Dozen" challenges our ability to stay awake in a warm, dark theater.
God bless 'em, they try.
Martin returns as Tom Baker, a college football coach raising 12 rambunctious kids with his wife, Kate (Bonnie Hunt). But with their oldest daughter (Piper Perabo) about to start a family of her own, Tom and Kate see their flesh and blood abandoning them for college, then jobs, then well, one hopes, better movies.
To have the entire family together one last time, they engineer a vacation on Lake Winnetka, where Tom rekindles an old rivalry with area big shot Jimmy Murtaugh (Eugene Levy).
Levy plays a suave, financially successful father of eight with a trophy wife (Carmen Electra, in an actual non-bimbo role). There's a weird bit of competition here, as Tom remarks that his adversary has "only eight" kids.
Big families are wonderful, don't get me wrong. But there's an eerie air of conspicuous consumption (and reproduction) that's just unnerving in "Dozen 2."
Tom Welling ("Smallville's" Clark Kent) and Hilary Duff reprise their roles as brother and sister, though Duff will regret the bangs-back Mohawk she sports in the film.
Everyone else is just kinda bland. Vanilla. Then again, the first "Dozen" made almost $139 million at the box office in 2003. So maybe enough people will buy a second scoop of vanilla to make "Dozen 2" a success.
`Cheaper by the Dozen 2'
Directed by Adam Shankman; screenplay by Sam Harper; cinematography by Peter James; production designed by Cary White; music by John Debney; edited by Matthew Cassel and Christopher Greenbury; produced by Shawn Levy and Ben Myron. A 20th Century Fox release; opens Wednesday. Running time: 1:34. MPAA rating: PG (for some crude humor and mild language).
Tom Baker - Steve Martin
Kate Baker - Bonnie Hunt
Charlie Baker - Tom Welling
Nora Baker - Piper Perabo
Lorraine Baker - Hilary Duff
Jimmy Murtaugh - Eugene Levy
Sarina Murtaugh - Carmen ElectraCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times