Duller by the 'Dozen'
Big changes are afoot for the Bakers in "Cheaper by the Dozen 2" -- a sequel that adds little more than a numeral to this good-natured but dull franchise.
For Tom (Steve Martin) and Kate (Bonnie Hunt), their once closely knit family of 12 is unraveling. Two older daughters (Piper Perabo and Hilary Duff) and a son (Tom Welling) are jumping the nest. And no one seems interested in taking a family vacation anymore. Nonetheless, Tom persuades the clan to make one last sentimental trip to Lake Winnetka, where they spent all those s'mores-licking summers.
The Bakers discover that their dear, old lake house is even more decrepit than they remembered, while their perennial rivals, an eight-kid family called the Murtaughs, have installed a McMansion of a summer house across the water. Tom and Murtaugh leader Jimmy (Eugene Levy) reprise their longstanding tension, clashing on everything from parenting styles to recreational choices and prepping their families for the equivalent of pitched battle at the annual Labor Day athletic competition.
This is definitely a family trip to stay home and skip. Martin performs a few sight gags by rote -- including a spazzy dance on a rickety pier -- and as the long-suffering Tom, he fades into his autumn years almost literally. And what kind of comedy ignores the talents of Levy, one of the funniest men on the planet when he's allowed to be? "Cheaper 2" invests a lot of screen time trying to distinguish one Baker and Murtaugh from another, but their uniform innocuousness -- even with Carmen Electra playing Jimmy's buxom trophy wife -- proves too daunting.
-- Desson Thomson
Cheaper by the Dozen 2 PG, 100 minutes Contains nothing offensive, which may be part of its trouble. Area theaters.