Some sequels are better and some are worse than their predecessor. Every now and then though, you get one which is precisely more of the same which is the case with “Cheaper by the Dozen 2” – a sequel every bit as bland, forced and flat as the generic 2003 comedy which spawned it. Pure diluted sitcom script material stretched out over feature length, the main distinction with this entry is its location set around the family’s Summer vacation home on a lake (Toronto doubling for Wisconsin) and the inclusion of a rival family headed by Eugene Levy and Carmen Electra.
Director Adam Shankman got good mileage out of Levy and Martin working together in last year’s “Bringing Down the House”, this time he again sets up the many situations of the film trying to strike gold again and always failing. The script once again forces interplay between moments of silly slapstick and soppy sentimentality without any real success in either. At times there’s the odd cute kid moment (in this case mostly a brewing young love subplot), but most of the stuff is Martin mugging for the camera or making a fool out of himself in very obvious ways..
The performances are dead all around, especially the older kids who phone in their roles. The skinny Hilary Duff, fresh from a trip to the collagen farm, so obviously doesn’t want to be a part in this movie that her only involvement seems to be limited to a handful of scenes showing her giving makeup tips or in an unflattering swimming costume. Tom Welling, playing far too young and too timid to flash his abs (they put him in wet shorts and then shoot him only from the back? idiots!), is stuck with a small and tired flirtatious subplot with a slightly grungy Jamie King.
Of the older kids Piper Perabo at least seems to be making an effort as the heavily pregnant sister, helped by Mr. Trousersnake himself Jonathan Bennett (“Mean Girls”) who has a knack for comedy and manages some good mileage out of a one-note role. Carmen Electra as Levy’s trophy wife has fun playing up her sexy image whilst giving a saccharinely sweet turn as well.
Its Levy and Martin though, despite some decent comic skills, who simply can’t lift the material above the banal. Their characters are reduced to one-note macho rivalry throughout with the inevitable bonding between them set right from the start. Hunt occasionally steals the rug from under both of them with the odd deadpan line (her wet t-shirt crack is the best in the film), despite being stuck in the background for most of the picture. None can save it from being the trite family safe vehicle it sets out to be – therefore it’ll probably make a mint like the first one did.