Dir. Adam Shankman, US, 2005
Cast: Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt, Piper Perabo, Hilary Duff, Tom Welling
The Bakers are back…BIG time! America’s favorite movie family returns in CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN 2. Only this time, they’re going toe-to-toe against another clan in the ultimate inter-family battle. The entire CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN cast reunites, including Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt, Hilary Duff, Tom Welling and Piper Perabo, and they’re joined by a new family, headed by Eugene Levy. Bigger scale, more laughs, ramped-up action – and lots of heart – are the hallmarks of the Bakers’ new adventure.
In CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN 2, Tom Baker (Steve Martin) and wife Kate, hoping to bring their family together for a memorable summer vacation, take their twelve offspring to rustic Lake Winnetka, Wisconsin – their longtime family vacation home. But their retreat soon turns cutthroat when they enter into a competition with the over-achieving members of a large family headed by Tom’s longtime rival, Jimmy Murtaugh (Eugene Levy).
Kids, craziness, domestic disaster and, yes, the Bakers’ weapon of choice – the family dog unleashed upon a pair of meat-soaked trousers – made up the mix that drew audiences to 2003’s CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN. The film became a box-office sensation and Steve Martin’s biggest-grossing comedy to date. Moviegoers embraced the film’s modern comic sensibility coupled with old-fashioned sentiment rooted in family values. CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN was a love letter to large families.
Given the film’s success, it’s not surprising that Twentieth Century Fox asked CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN director Shawn Levy and co-screenwriter Sam Harper to create a sequel. But all parties agreed that the new film had to be bigger in scale and expand upon themes explored in the first film.
Under Levy’s supervision, Harper began work on a script. When the film received a “green light” from the studio, Levy was unable to take the helm due to other commitments. But he still had ties to the characters he helped bring to life, and was eager to contribute to a new film about the Bakers. So Levy became a producer on CHEAPER 2. “The film takes this franchise to a new level,” he says. “It really ups the stakes in so many ways. It was important for CHEAPER 2 to have a large scale, and at the same time have something new to say. It has more stunts, bigger laughs, and another family, which adds a new dimension to the Bakers’ story.”
With Levy producing, CHEAPER 2 needed a new director. Steve Martin had an idea: Why not ask Adam Shankman, who had directed Martin in the comedy smash “Bringing Down the House,” to helm the new film? “Adam’s a talented filmmaker with a great eye and ear for comedy,” says Martin. “He also has a terrific way of working with kids, and we were lucky to get him for CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN 2.”
Levy and the studio agreed that Shankman was a great choice. Indeed, in a short period of time, Shankman has become one of the industry’s most successful comedy directors, having helmed the hit films “The Pacifier” and “The Wedding Planner,” as well as “Bringing Down the House.”
Shankman couldn’t wait to get started on CHEAPER 2 and bring a new scale and vision to the Baker family dynamic. “I’d just done a film involving a bunch of kids [“The Pacifier”], but when I read the script for CHEAPER 2, I knew I’d have to do it – and that we’d have to top the first film. The set pieces are bigger than the original’s and that gave me a lot to sink my teeth into. It still has the heart, but it’s a bigger canvas. It’s CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN…on steroids!
“Shawn Levy did a great job with CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN,” Shankman continues. “I approached CHEAPER 2 with my own sense of humor, sense of family, and heart.”
The studio, Shankman and Levy agreed that all the actors who made up the Baker family in CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN had to return for the new film. Reassembling such a large cast could have been problematic, but all 14 of the 2003 film’s cast had such affection for their characters, that the reunion for the second film came together relatively easily.
Shankman credits screenwriter Sam Harper for succeeding in what would seem an impossible writing task: balancing CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN 2’s 25 principal roles “Included in that group of actors Sam was writing for are three stars (Steve Martin, Eugene Levy and Bonnie Hunt) who are writers in the own right and who have strong opinions,” says Shankman. “It’s a testament to Sam’s work that all three actors cite the screenplay as a reason they made time in their busy schedules to participate in CHEAPER 2.”
Confirms Steve Martin: “The script was good from the first draft. CHEAPER 2 kept the essence of the first movie, while taking it in new directions.”
Harper was eager to revisit the Bakers. “Starting work on a new CHEAPER script was like coming home to old friends,” he says. “Adam, Shawn and I wanted to move the characters forward. The biggest challenge in writing the screenplay was finding a universal theme around which I could wrap a story that’s funny, emotional and big.”
Harper’s script finds Tom and Kate Baker experiencing “empty nest syndrome”: Nora (Piper Perabo) is married, pregnant and moving to Houston; Lorraine (Hilary Duff) has graduated high school and is moving to New York for an internship in the fashion world; and Charlie (Tom Welling) is working as a mechanic while considering his next move.
The central story point about Tom’s reluctance to let his children leave the “nest” allowed the filmmakers to explore questions such as: How much can you control your kids? When do you have to let go? When you do let go, how do you handle it? “Ultimately our story is about acceptance,” says Adam Shankman. “It’s about accepting change is okay and a natural part of a family’s evolution, raising your family starting from a place of love, and letting go of your kids is the most difficult and the most necessary thing you do as a parent.”
To bring the family together for a summer “last hurrah,” Tom takes the entire brood for a vacation at the Bakers’ favorite getaway spot: Lake Winnetka. “It’ll be just like old times – one more time,” he promises.
Instead, the vacation resurrects the longtime feud between Tom and Jimmy Murtaugh. It’s a fight that stems in part from differences in parenting styles between the Bakers and Murtaughs. Tom and Kate Baker have allowed their children to grow as individuals, warts and all. In contrast, Murtaugh represents strict control. He keeps his kids on a short leash, grooming them, as Harper writes, “to reflect the best aspects of his gene pool.”
Says Harper: “The battle between Tom and Jimmy is as much a philosophical war as it is an athletic competition. After all the one-upsmanship and fighting between Tom and Jimmy, it becomes clear that parenting is a balance, and that they can learn from one another.”
CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN 2 brings these themes into sharp focus, while presenting even bigger laughs and stunts than its predecessor. The formidable acting and comedic talents of Steve Martin were critical to bring together the physical humor and the quieter, emotional moments.
Martin had taken the 2003 film to a level unattainable without his presence. “When you have Steve Martin, you get layers of character and comedy that go well beyond the scripted page,” says Shawn Levy. “His work starts where the words end.”
Adds Adam Shankman: “Part of what Steve does in the CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN films is incredibly physical, and he is really at his best when you set up a context for him to be zany.
“The idea of working again with Steve was so appealing because I love putting him in peril,” laughs Shankman. “Putting Steve in peril is what I do well – like suspending him 25 feet above ground, having him crash through a dock, and fight a losing battle with a wake board,” all of which Martin’s Tom Baker suffers through in CHEAPER 2.
Also returning in the starring cast are Tom Welling, Hilary Duff and Piper Perabo. All three actors made time from their busy schedules to participate in CHEAPER 2. For Welling, it meant squeezing in his CHEAPER 2 work before beginning work on the fifth season of his hit television series “Smallville.” Duff juggled a demanding concert tour schedule to make room for the CHEAPER 2 shoot. And Perabo has appeared in no less than six films in 2005.
“I wouldn’t have missed it,” says Duff of the chance to reprise her CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN role of Lorraine Baker. “Lorraine has changed a lot. In the first film, she was a teen whose main interests were clothes, hair and makeup. In CHEAPER 2, she is young woman about to leave home for a great opportunity in New York. You can also see how Lorraine has changed when she offers advice about dating to younger sister Sarah.”
Perabo, as eldest sibling Nora, is now married (Jonathan Bennett plays Nora’s husband, Bud), expecting, and preparing to move to Houston – much to her father’s consternation. “Like so many in the family, Nora’s had some seismic changes in her life,” says Perabo. “But her dad doesn’t seem to want to let go of her, or his about-to-be first grandchild, whom football coach Tom expects to a linebacker.”
Romance is the air for Tom Welling’s Charlie Baker, who finds his neighbor Anne Murtaugh (Jaime King) more than a summer diversion. “But she’s a Murtaugh,” says Welling, “and with that name comes all sorts of complications for a Baker.”
All Text courtesy of 20th Century Fox