Review: Cheaper by the Dozen 2

by malducin

In Cheaper by the Dozen 2, director Adam Shankman has the Baker clan get together one last time for a family vacation during Labor Day weekend where they encounter the Murtaugh clan intent on showing off they're the better family. ILM contributed some VFX work to enhance this family comedy.

The Movie

Adam Shankman previously worked with ILM in this year's The Pacifier. Perhaps he's best known for doing mainstream comedies. The cast includes Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt as the heads of the Baker clan with Piper Perabo, Tom Welling and Hilary Duff as their 3 eldest children. Eugene Levy is the head of the Murtaugh clan with Carmen Electra as her trophy wife and Jamie King as the eldest daughter. As can be expected with such a large cast (4 adults and 20 kids/teens/young adults) most of the actors playing the kids get very little time (even the Baker kids) some just have a handful of lines in the entire movie.

Stealing from David Spade's Hollywood Minute: I enjoyed the movie the first time I saw it ... when it was called The Great Outdoors. Nothing wrong with that unless you don't do something fun or different with the same premise. The first installment of this remake, while relying on some low brow humor, was somewhat entertaining as a cheaper version of Home Alone, that is the kids pulling all kinds of pranks. You know there are problems with the script when you have to repeat one of the best gags in the first film (slightly altered) to little effect. The comedy is more splintered, part dealing with the confrontations between Marin and Levy and the other concentrating with a couple of love interest stories with the kids. Most of the "best" bits were already shown in the trailer, which usually doesn't bode well for the final product. The film is usually just a sequence of gags and jokes that try to hard to be funny.

It's not extremely terrible, but the problem with the film lies in the fact that the comedy is too bland and the script is so life sucking that not even the comedic talents of Steve Martin, Eugene Levy and Bonnie Hunt (why such a great comedienne gets all these thankless roles) can save it. As usual this trio is a pleasure to watch and are about the best part of the film. Surprisingly Carmen Electra has probably the best role not as cliched as implied, while Bonnie Hunt gets the best laugh (wearing one of Sarina's blouses). With such a cast one would have expected so much more.

The VFX

VFX were mainly provided by ILM. Surprisingly the credits don't list any supervisor, just the group of artists involved in the film. Most if not all of the 2 handful people listed seemed to be from Compositing like Dorne Huebler and Adam Howard.

As such most of the VFX work involved were compositing shots and cleanup work. The most notable is when Steve Martin and Eugene Levy compete in water log rolling. You can even see a blooper of this sequence during the final credits with Steve Martin and Eugene Levy dangling from the cables desperately trying to stand on the log. A judicious use of editing plus great body control by the two actors really sell the shot. Most other VFX work is placing actors in shots (some a bit too obvious, perhaps pickup shots) and a few other embellishments like adding a wake behind Eugene Levy as he lands on the Baker's shore. Most of the other effect is practical and stunt work.

The Final Verdict

In the end Cheaper by the Dozen 2 is a slightly entertaining if a bit forgettable family film. It's a shame that the filmmakers decided to go for a totally safe route, as this cast is certainly worthy and more than capable of a much better comedy. VFX work goes from totally invisible to somewhat noticeable, good enough to sell the shots.