Tom and Kate Baker move to Chicago to fulfil career dreams, bringing all 11 (one's already flown the nest) kids along for the ride. Nothing goes according to plan and Tom is soon left to fend for himself, juggling his job and parenting duties with little success.
After Parenthood and two Father Of The Brides, Steve Martin clearly has the role of the demented dad just the way he wants it, and there is little he brings to Cheaper By The Dozen that we haven't seen on numerous occasions. Over-animated facial expressions are accompanied by the standard histrionics, but his shtick soon gets tired as Martin fails to cope with his children's increasingly disruptive behaviour.
The film works best when it taps into the chaos generated by the kids, and there are a number of suitably anarchic Home Alone-style set-pieces. These scenes and a surprisingly good cameo by Ashton Kutcher as narcissistic 'model-slash-actor' Hank, boyfriend of the brood's eldest daughter Nora (Piper Perabo), mark the film's few highlights.
Beyond the mayhem there is of course the prerequisite 'serious' message: the dilemma of raising a large family whilst still being able to attain your own dreams and aspirations. It is here that Cheaper By The Dozen really becomes unstuck, as it ceases to focus on the kids, sacrifices humour for sentimentality and ultimately concludes on not one but numerous notes of nausea.
After some initial slapstick fun, it soon deteriorates into formulaic family fare, unlikely to hold the attention of the most patient of children or the most forgiving of grown-ups.