With no CGI, no muppet-puppetry and not a single tie-in toy in sight, Cheaper By The Dozen is just as penny-pinching as its title suggests. It's an old-fashioned kids movie in which Steve Martin plays pater to a brood of 12 children. But while mom's away, the nippers will play, leaving Steve to handle escaped frogs, naughty pranks, and all manner of kiddie chaos in a rarely funny comedy that's unlikely to keep even the most undemanding ankle biters amused.
Although the movie's astute enough not to bother shouting about it, Cheaper By The Dozen is actually a remake of a long-forgotten 50s film of the same name starring old school movie thespian Clifton Webb. Taking the basic 12-sprog setup and filtering it through the kids-on-the-loose antics of Kindergarten Cop and Daddy Day Care, the remake doesn't do much to justify its existence.
As the dad who accepts a promotion but runs short of time to spend at home, Martin's locked in a straight man role that even a comedian of his wild and ker-razy ability can't do much with. Switching on the autopilot but not having the sense to bail, he's upstaged by the kids - including Hilary Duff and Tom Welling - as they trash the house in a riot of Frisbee-throwing, dart-firing, puke-chucking slapstick. Parenthood was never supposed to be like this.
For all the yuckiness of the yuck-yuck-yucks, though, the really gooey stuff comes when dad learns the error of his ways and group hugs the family back to health. It's schmaltzy, it's sickly, and it's destined to make you revisit your lunch with a Technicolor yawn of epic proportions. Adults will be left wondering whatever happened to Martin's exquisite comic timing, while the kids in the audience will probably just ask each other who the unfunny white-haired guy is.