A late entry into Steve Martin's 'Jumper Period' contains some decent, simple pleasures.
As the final word in unimpeachable review aggregation, Rotten Tomatoes offers a simple guide to cinema's highest critical achievers. It also gives a hearty heads-up to the films that, let's just say, didn't quite work out. For our delectation and amusement, they've also listed these celluloid nightmares in this neat round-up. And here it is!
So, in the name of public service journalism, we'll be traversing this harrowing and godless terrain over the next two years to alert you to the very worst in modern cinema. Welcome, dear readers, to Tomato Soup.
Cheaper by the Dozen 2 (2005)
Directed by Adam Shankman
Starring Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt, Eugene Levy, Hilary Duff
What is it?
A sequel to Steve Martin’s original 2003 corduroy-covered sleeper hit – itself a sugary dilution of his 1989 hymn to upper-middle class Nixonian values, Parenthood – this family-friendly snoozer should have more precisely been titled Cheaper by the Dozen Squared, as there are so many fucking people in this movie that you’ll need a Venn diagram, a photographic memory and a full blister-pack of Pro-Plus to stand even a chance of keeping track of who’s who and what’s what.
Despite being locked into what appears to be America’s premier sexless marriage, Steve and his missus have nevertheless somehow sprogged out twelve kids, each cuddlier and more photogenic than the next. This installment sees them all tootle up to the manicured shores of Lake Wazoo for a family holiday that exists purely as a thinly veiled excuse for Clan Martin to wage war on Eugene Levy and his improbably huge brood of adorable moppets/over-achieving little shits who have rented the lake house opposite.
What follows is a brutal mix of 'War of the Roses' and 'Lord of the Flies', with a side of Furry Vengeance and a cast of thousands.
Why so bad?
To be fair, it isn’t. It’s a perfectly decent family movie somewhat ironically undermined by its limitless cast of cutesy anklebiters. Honestly, it’s like an all-toddler production of Reds! And just when you think you’ve finally worked out which kid is which, Levy’s household enters the frame and the two families mingle and meld like the swirling galaxies of colliding starfields. It leaves the viewer exhausted and bewildered by the Brownian dance of cosmic talcum powder playing out before them.
It’s a little undercooked perhaps, with gags – usually textbook stuff involving a barbecue pit full of fireworks and/or turbo-charged golf-karts – taking a back seat to predictable internecine strife and pastel-hued parenting. Adam Shankman (Rock of Ages, Zac Efron’s Pool Party) directs the bucolic splendor of the big al fresco like a man who’s never been further west than Fifth Avenue, which means there’s never any of the sense of mood or place or dislocation that hallmarked, say, Meatballs or National Lampoon’s Vacation. This is not a half-forgotten wilderness playground of first loves, wild critters or afternoon delight, but a jet-washed Disneyland of SUVs, jet-skis and electric-gate compounds.
What does it want to be?
Every film from Steve Martin’s ‘Jumper Period’ wrapped up in one vacuum-sealed package. If you were to pit A Simple Twist of Fate, Housesitter, Father of the Bride and Leap of Faith against each other in a knock-down drag-out steel cage death-match, then when the dust had settled, what emerged would look something very like this.
Well, at least it has the good manners not to be 2005 Dennis Quaid/Rene Russo howler Yours, Mine and Ours – ‘A widowed Coast Guard Admiral and a widowed handbag designer fall in love and marry, much to the dismay of her 10 and his eight children’, indeed! – which can only count in its favour.
And Steve hasn’t entirely misplaced his funny bone this time out. In fact the one chance he and Levy get a chance to play directly off one another results in a belter of a scene in which some stealth-parenting in a movie theatre during an earlybird screening of Ice Age sees them misidentified as a couple of conspicuously amorous homosexuals. Which in turn leads to Steve being flung from the balcony. It’s hardly Jacques Tati, but it’s something…
The Drinking Game
Simple but deadly: try wetting the baby’s head for every child on screen and you’ll be dead by morning. Go for something on-point like alcopops or vodka McFlurries. Chase down with lots and lots of very, very white bread.
There’s nothing to get too excited about either way here, but the plusses easily outweigh the minuses. The kids – tow-headed and catalogue cute though they are – are better company than most of the snot-nosed pricks you encounter in these things. And, rather refreshingly, nowhere in their swelled ranks do they find room for the regulation 16-year-old with an emo haircut, iPod and surly attitude who’s finally won over when a hot-but-wholesome local chick convinces him that the boonies ain’t such a bad place after all by taking him to a battle-of-the-bands/drag race/cockfight.
All in all, this is serviceable family entertainment that puts togetherness over achievement and shit’n’giggles over hugging’n’learning, and that’s an applecart Tomato Soup is reluctant to upset.
Next Week: Cuba Gooding Jr, Roger Moore and Will Ferrell vs. homosexuality in Boat Trip.