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‘Cheaper 2’ is like an ad for birth control

Heart of this movie is in the right place, but its misplaced its brain. By David
/ Source: The Associated Press

“Cheaper by the Dozen 2” is an argument for the cinematic equivalent of condoms.

Something’s got to come between audiences and Hollywood’s incessant desire to sequelize bad movies, or in this case, do a bad remake of a family classic, then follow with an equally dumb second chapter.

In fairness, Steve Martin’s follow up to his 2003 hit about a family with 12 children is innocuous enough, its heart in the right spot even if it did misplace its brain.

And sadly, in a holiday market crowded with the usual year-end rush of films, “Cheaper by the Dozen 2” is the only pure choice for mom, dad and all the kiddies, potentially becoming the default flick for family audiences.

Like its predecessor, the sequel bears no resemblance to the warm, engaging 1950 film starring Clifton Webb and Myrna Loy or the book from which it was adapted, despite the new movie’s claim to be based on that same memoir about the real-life Gilbreth family.

“Cheaper by the Dozen 2” simply borrows the title again and the premise of a very large brood of mischievous children and their loving but harried parents.

This installment plays like a toned-down retread of one of “National Lampoon’s Vacation” movies as Tom and Kate Baker (Martin and Bonnie Hunt), realizing their offspring are beginning to flee the nest, decide on one last summer fling with the whole gang.

The entire clan of Baker kids is back, led by Hilary Duff, Tom Welling and Piper Perabo, each with their own lame little subplot. Other than Alyson Stoner as one of the middle kids experiencing first love, the rest of the Bakers are pretty much background noise.

Off they go to the old Baker vacation spot on Lake Winnetka, Wis., where Tom’s old rival, Jimmy Murtaugh (Eugene Levy, a brilliant comedic actor in possibly the most boring role of his career), rules the roost with his eight kids and his new trophy wife (Carmen Electra).

What follows is a loose collection of sketches, bellyflops, pratfalls and sight gags, none of them remotely inspired, as Tom and Jimmy resume their competitive ways.

After Martin’s touching and restrained dramatic turn in “Shopgirl,” it’s painful to see him return to such a low-rent variation of his wild-and-crazy form.

Shawn Levy, who directed “Cheaper by the Dozen,” returns as producer and leaves the directing chores to Adam Shankman, who previously regaled us with “The Pacifier,” “The Wedding Planner” and Martin and Levy’s “Bringing Down the House.” Shankman clearly has a leg up on Levy for purveying wretched mainstream comedy.

Sam Harper, co-writer of the 2003 movie, goes solo on the sequel’s screenplay, delivering a dopey 90-minute sit-com save for a few mild zingers by Hunt, which work more because of the actress’ sardonic delivery than the writer’s wit.

Hollywood needs to put a sock on this sad little franchise before someone cooks up a “Cheaper by the Baker’s Dozen” sequel.