Monday, August 16, 2010

A Decade of Dreck #26: Cheaper by the Dozen 2

Charge Shot!!! is celebrating the end of the decade in the most masochistic way we know how - by watching and writing about the 100 worst movies of the last ten years as defined by film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Click here to see RT's complete list, click here for more about the Decade of Dreck project, and click here to see all of the movies we've done so far.

I hate large families, I really do; which isn't to say I hate children or anything, I just hate it when people churn out scores upon scores of ugly little versions of themselves in order to show the world what loving parents they are. How would you feel to be say, the child somewhere near, but not the absolute bottom the family totem pole? For instance, the tenth child in a brood of today's film dozen? You would be utterly neglected, no one- not even blood relatives, would remember which one you are (let alone your birthday) and all your accomplishments would be passed over and forgotten in favor of your older siblings, likely attending university and getting jobs by the time you're old enough to do anything and always spurned in favor of the "baby" of the family. That's child abuse if I've ever seen it.

So I suppose I went into Cheaper by the Dozen 2 with the wrong mindset. I'm predisposed to absolutely hating it and the characters it depicts. What's really strange is I actually thought this one had some raw material that a better director than a judge from So You Think You Can Dance? could have made into a halfway decent family picture.

I, of course, never saw Cheaper by the Dozen 1 so if for some reason being unfamiliar with the Dozen-verse and its occupants inhibits my appreciation for this film than I apologize. I should have known that the groundwork was all laid in the previous entry for an amazing sequel in the tradition of The Empire Strikes Back and The Godfather: Part II.

Funnyman Steve Martin reprises his role as Tom Baker, a recently retired college football coach and father of an ungodly large litter of children ranging in age from recently married to lower school. Bonnie Hunt plays his wife Kate, the remains of whose utterly-stretched-past-the point-of-all-recognition destroyed vagina I could not help but picture all the time. It made for a very unsettling movie watching experience, almost Se7en-like.

When he discovers that his children are generally all gaining the ability to think for themselves and assert some independence, he coerces them into taking a Labor Day vacation to the old family cabin in Wisconsin in attempt to do some bonding. There he encounters his childhood rival Eugene Levy who has for some reason also managed to get some poor woman (or series of women) to bear him a large number of terrible children, though in his case eight is enough. Hijinks ensue.

I should first do the proper thing and describe what I thought were some of the few honestly good parts about this movie. Hidden beneath the layers of madcap mischief reeked by the Baker children and the utter violence done to Steve Martin's crotch, there was a pretty touching father/daughter subplot. Martin and Hunt's middle daughter, the eighth-grader Sarah is a tomboy and seems to take after her athlete father the most of the twelve children. It's pretty obvious she's his favorite. However, she develops a crush on Levy's son Taylor Lautner (squueeee!) and in an effort to win his affections starts drifting away from her Daddy's Little Girl status and experimenting with wearing makeup and going to movies with boys. I found some of these moments genuinely touching somehow. I almost wish they could have a whole movie devoted to them.

Which brings me to what I hated most about the movie: the dozen children. Well, to be specific the latter eight children are the ones I hate. Children one through four are okay, I suppose. There's the eldest daughter (Piper Perabo) who's married to Aaron Samuels from Mean Girls and is expecting her first of hopefully very few children. Tom Welling is son number one who spends most of the movie fantasizing about Eugene Levy's daughter's tramp stamp, and I guess I only included college-bound Hillary Duff because she had something of a character arc. But considering the rest of the kids, the former Lizzie Maguire isn't so bad. The younger section of the Baker family are intolerable menaces who seem to exist only to destroy things and hit their father in the balls for laughs, hopefully putting an end to his inexplicable virility.

I found the best way to enjoy this film if you must is to imagine the Bakers as parts of some weird Christian fundamentalist sect like the fucking Duggars and all those other assholes with reality shows about the "wonders" of having an unhealthy amount of children. Tom Baker sees himself as appointed by Yahweh to "be fruitful and multiply" and raising massive amounts of offspring is his sworn duty to the Lord. He rules his family as patriarch with an iron fist, forbidding his wife and daughters from speaking unless spoken to or having lives independent of acting as baby factories for the Almighty. Having married off his eldest daughter to a half-simple dolt, he has gone ahead and impregnated her himself in order to keep the family line pure and ensure that he will have utter authority over the quite likely retarded child. Who knows what to expect when Hillary Duff tries to escape the Baker Compound and flee to New York!?

Basically it's like The Handmaid's Tale, but with crotch shots.

Cheaper by the Dozen 2 is ranked #98 on the Rotten Tomatoes Worst 100 list with 7% freshness. Its RT page can be found here.