Cheaper By The Dozen
2003 by Tony Medley
The first script
submitted for this, written by Craig Titley, conformed to the original
in which Clifton Webb was an efficiency expert with 12 children. The
joke was that the children drove him crazy because he couldn’t manage
them. The powers that be discarded Titley’s script, hired a bunch of
other screenwriters, Sam Harper and Joel Cohen & Alec Sokolow,
relegating Titley to a “Screen Story” credit. The new guys changed
the main character’s occupation from efficiency expert to football
coach. The joke is that this guy, supercilious Clifton Webb in the
original, is an efficiency expert who can’t manage his own family.
When his occupation changes, the joke disappears.
what’s wrong with Cheaper by the Dozen. Tom Baker (Steve
Martin) is offered the job that’s his lifetime dream, coaching a
Division A college football team. But it requires him to move his wife,
Kate (Bonnie Hunt), a fledgling writer, and their 12 children to another
city. The children hate the idea, but they go ahead.
the same time Kate’s novel is accepted for publication. This is where
the film gets absurd. Kate flies to New York to meet with the publisher.
Even though she hasn’t signed a contract and has only just been
informed that the publisher wants to publish it, when she arrives, her
agent meets her with a hardbound copy of her book! To make matters
worse, she immediately goes on a book tour. All this happens in the
space of one week! I’ve written three books, all of which have been
published and gone through multiple printings. From the time a publisher
accepts your manuscript for publication, it can take as much as nine
months before you see it in a hardbound condition with a dust cover.
Then you go on a book tour. If only it were as easy and fast as the naïve
screenwriters who replaced Titley imagine! To present the concept that a
publisher is going to print up in hardcover a book they might want to
publish might be the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen in a film. This
gives you an idea of the quality of intelligence that replaced Titley,
although I understand that the “book tour” idea was Hunt’s. So
much for lending much credence to actors’ ideas.
Because she has to
leave home to go on her book tour, Tom is left to care for the family
and start his new job. His children become the children from hell.
Instead of the loving, cooperative, supportive family they apparently
were, they show not the
slightest respect for their father and mother and their careers and do
everything possible to be devils incarnate. This is no loving family
we’re seeing. It’s a bunch of selfish, sniveling monsters.
Although Martin and
Hunt try, when they changed Tom’s profession, the filmmakers ruined
the joke and the story. Except for a hilarious turn by Ashton Kutcher as
Hank, the self-absorbed actor boy friend of eldest daughter Nora (Piper
Perabo), there’s not a lot of humor, unless you like watching
self-centered children torpedo their parents’ lives and careers, which
never know if Titley’s original script would have been better than
this. But since he alone seemed to understand that the joke of Cheaper
by the Dozen had a lot to do with Tom’s occupation as an
efficiency expert, it couldn’t have been worse, and probably would
have been a lot better.
January 3, 2004