½*/**** Image A- Sound B Extras C
starring Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt, Piper Perabo, Tom Welling
screenplay by Craig Titley, based on the book by Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey
directed by Shawn Levy
by Walter Chaw Walter Lang's 1950 version of Frank B. Gilbreth and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey's semi-autobiographical Cheaper by the Dozen ends with patriarch Frank (Clifton Webb) kicking the bucket, and seat-warmer Shawn Levy's (fresh off the triumph Just Married) 2003 adaptation of the same ends with patriarch Tom (Steve Martin) capitulating to his simpering children. Such is the decline of courage in western popular culture that even sickening cultural artifacts like Lang's Cheaper by the Dozen out-balls an updated version fifty-three years hence. Infantile regression the rule of the day in a climate increasingly desperate to shoehorn its post-modern anti-narratives into comfortable family fare, it's interesting to consider that the original was already seen as something of a throwback to Depression-era family values at the time of its release. In conflict with the popular wag that people are stupider now than they've ever been, the excrescent original was also defended as good old-fashioned escapist fare. People are exactly as stupid as they've always been, it seems, but the lords of our popular entertainment have been noticeably castrated.