The trailers may have been awful and the final result is predictable and saccharine as hell, but the new family comedy from Steve Martin is shockingly strong on the laughs and a pleasant surprise for the kiddie-friendly season. There’s nothing outrageous or even memorable here, much of the plot feeling like recycled kids TV movie fodder and there’s many a time where in reality things would get much tougher (discipline in this household seems like an unknown concept). Still the performers do pretty good jobs and turn in very broad comedy which will have one chuckling throughout.
Of the cast its Bonnie Hunt without a doubt whose the strongest, the lovely lady outshining even Martin although teamed with him they make a strong pair who understand comic timing and delivery well enough that it seems like second nature to them in many ways. The pair work off each other well and make a believable couple although some of the other members of the family like Tom Welling and Hilary Duff, whilst giving solid work for their parts, are underwritten and don’t feel to be a part of the ‘family unit’ as such. Welling in particular has a subplot about fitting in at school which seems to be abandoned somewhere amongst the mess, whilst Duff has little to do except bitch about fashion labels.
The real gem here though (yes its astonishes me to say this) is Ashton Kutcher who in a small supporting role delivers arguably his best big screen work yet as he becomes the butt of many of the family’s elaborate jokes and even makes fun of himself in one scene (about the only ‘clever’ joke of the film in fact). Lets face it, this film has a built-in demographic and yet is wide enough to appeal to even adults who want something charming and yet easy-going and mindless. The script, direction, etc. are very pedestrian and this is not going to be considered anything special in Martin’s filmography, but its a fun waste of time and has morals and gags the kids will really like too.