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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Cheaper by the Dozen 2 (review)

Mother Earth weeps at the environment-ravaging fecundity of Tom and Kate Baker (Steve Martin: Bringing Down the House and Bonnie Hunt: Monsters, Inc.), with their 12 kids and sprawling suburban lifestyle, and now you can weep, too. For their second outing as a supposedly all-American family is a cinematic Bataan death march of pratfalls, kicks to the crotch, leg-humping dogs, pseudo-adorable rugrats who are a collective menace to society, and stomach-turning schmaltz. This time around, the Bakers are summering at their rundown cabin on Lake Winetka, where Tom relives his childhood rivalry with overachieving Jimmy Murtaugh (Eugene Levy: The Man), whose eight children are paragons of well-behaved, honor-society perfection (ie: they’re Stepford kids programmed by Dad) and whose lakeside mansion is a barely farfetched parody of American excess. Laugh, if you must, at two grown men using their children as pawns in a juvenile game of one-upmanship. But it’s only ever horribly pathetic that Tom, our putative hero, is so insecure in every aspect of his life that he could be driven to measure himself against so obviously cartoonish a foe. Clearly, the mawkish lessons about life, happiness, and dadhood that were beaten into him in the first film did not take hold — but never fear: they’ll be beaten into him all over again here. And beaten into you, too.


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MPAA: rated PG for some crude humor and mild language

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

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