Film / Cheaper by the Dozen

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"Sarah, your suspension from lacrosse for excessive force has been lifted, so you're going today... Henry, you have band practice, all right? I cleaned your clarinet. Please don't play with your food in your mouth again. Kim and Jessica, your teacher called and has made a request that you do not correct her in front of the class. Mike, you have show-and-tell today. And please, honey, remember that body parts do not count. Kyle and Nigel, you have a dentist appointment at 3:00, so you're going to work with Dad."
— Kate Baker (bear in mind this covers barely half the kids)

2003 film starring Steve Martin about him, his wife and their twelve kids. Count 'em, twelve.

Very Loosely Based on a True Story, in that there was a 1948 book and 1950 Film of the Book also called Cheaper by the Dozen which had a family with twelve kids in it. The original book is set in the 1920s and was written by Frank Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey. That's the only similarity. The Gilbreth children were: Anne, Mary (1906-1912), Ernestine, Martha, Frank Jr., William, Lillian, Frederick, Daniel, John, Robert and Jane. The authors wrote a sequel called Belles on Their Toes which follows the family after Frank Gilbreth, Sr's death. Mrs. Lillian Gilbreth (the mother) served as an adviser to five American presidents (Hoover, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson); she and her husband are part of a permanent exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution. The last surviving child, Frederick, passed away in December of 2015.

Plotwise, the family is happy, but packs up and moves an unspecified distance from a small town into the suburbs of Chicago so the Dad can pick up his dream job coaching his old college football team. The kids are variously disappointed by this, but grudgingly go along with it anyway. Having left home, the family gets another shock - Mom's gonna get her book published! Mom goes on a book tour, leaving the family in her husband's hands for a few days. Hilarity Ensues as total chaos erupts. One kid runs away, the family chases him down (leading to a nice You Are Not Alone moment), Dad realizes what his job has done to his kids and both he and his wife resolve to put family first.

A generally inoffensive family comedy.

A sequel was released, running with basically the same premise but a different plot, in which the family goes to a lake for a vacation but run into an old rival of Dad's—-who has a big family of his own. Naturally, everyone else ends up hitting it off well, which ultimately leads out to some fallout with the fathers and their families, but they make up in time to win a contest. Meanwhile, the oldest daughter gives birth to her first child.

As inoffensive as the former, but performed much poorer at the box office.

The films play straight pretty much every trope listed under Family Tropes, Sibling Tropes and The Parent Trope. As a result of this and rather poor writing, many audiences disdain them, but they've also gained enough of a following to provide a character page.


This film provides examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: Charles's conflict with the city kids in the first film.
  • A Boy and His X: Beans the frog is Mark's best friend. The fact that nobody seems to care when he dies is what causes Mark to run away.
  • Accidental Misnaming: Tom gets Mark's name wrong twice throughout the film. Both times, Mark corrects him. The second time, Tom corrects himself after getting it wrong.
    Mark: Have you seen my frog, Dad?
    Tom: Sorry, Charlie. Nigel. Kyle.
    Mark: It's Mark.
    Tom: I knew that.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: "You soaked his underpants in meat. That is so wrong. Funny! But wrong."
  • Adoption Diss: Mark's nickname of "Fedex" is used by his siblings to imply this.
  • Adorkable: Hank.
  • Big Brother Instinct: The kids have this for each other. When Jake, Jessica, Mike and Kim find out Mark is being bullied at school, they meet the bullies and give them some Laser-Guided Karma. Subverted in this case though, as Jake is the only one of this group who is older than Mark.
  • Big Fancy House: The Bakers' new home after they move house early on in the film.
  • Book Ends: The film starts with Kate listing negative or neutral things the family associates with the number twelve, and the film ends with her listing positive things the family associates with number twelve.
  • Bratty Halfpint: Sarah. Especially when she's torturing Lorraine.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Tom gets this from Charlie after Charlie is kicked off the football team due to being bullied. At the end of it, Charlie warns Tom that once he graduates, he's leaving.
  • Child Hater: Hank. He flat out calls Nora's siblings monsters. (This was after they set his pants on fire.)
  • Child Prodigy: Kim and Jessica are very brainy for their age.
  • Enfante Terrible: Again, Sarah.
  • Exiled to the Couch: Implied. Before Mark is revealed by Kate to have run away, Kate tells Tom "Feel free to sleep on the couch". Tom replies "You read my mind", implying he was going to anyway.
  • Food and Animal Attraction: The kids prank the Nora's boyfriend by dipping his underclothes in meat and setting the family dog on him.
  • Foreshadowing: A fairly obvious example in which Tom mentions in the first scene how the family could do with change—-of which a lot, of course, ends up happening over the course of the film.
  • Happily Married: Tom and Kate are still very much in love.
    Tom: Were you just checking me out?
    Kate: Maybe I was.
    Tom: Twelve kids later, and we still got the heat!
  • In-Name-Only: The only similarity it has with the book is that there are twelve kids.
  • Ironic Echo: In the same scene. After Kate tells Tina Mark has run away, Tina says that twelve is just too big a number of kids to have. Kate throws the insult back in her face at the end of the scene.
  • It's All About Me: Hank, who is a self-absorbed model and actor who worries about what the Baker kids will do to him when he and Nora visit (to be honest, though, he is right to worry, after they set his pants on fire). Nora doesn't see him for what he is until Mark runs away and Hank doesn't care at all, preferring to watch a commercial of himself on TV instead of going to help.
  • Jerkass:
    • Hank ends up being this to a degree. See It's All About Me.
    • Tina as well. It's pretty clear from the off that she doesn't like the Bakers because of how many kids they have and their parenting methods. She also seems a snob that fusses over Dylan and shows no sympathy to Kate when Mark has run away.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Most of the kids, who pull pranks and don't care much when Mark's frog dies, but they still feel bad when he ran away, and so still see him as very much a brother and member of the family.
    Jake: Without you, we wouldn't be the twelve Bakers any more. We'd be like... eleven.
    • Even Tom gets hints of this. He moves the family to Chicago even when none of the kids want to do it, just so he can pursue his dream job and look good in front of Shake (Charlie says later that Shake was a superstar in high school, whereas Tom was a loser, while he is Calling the Old Man Out), and becomes something of a workaholic so doesn't see the kids' side when they're either ignored or punished for fighting in school, but of course he still cares very much about the family and Kate and eventually gives up the coaching job so he can get another job closer to home.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: The bullies who knocked Mark's glasses off and pulled his hat down over his eyes get their comeuppance when Jake, Mike, Jessica and Kim find out and give them a taste of their own medicine, even if it results in them being punished for it.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: Dylan gets a injured by a grown man falling on him. It was still his best birthday ever.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: The Baker clan has, well, a dozen, seven sons (Charlie, Henry, Jake, Mark, Nigel and Kyle) and five daughters (Nora, Lorraine, Sarah, Jessica and Kim).
    And yet, it doesn't make them a Baker's dozen.
  • Meaningful Echo: Shortly after moving to Chicago, Mark draws a picture of their old house, which is his "Favorite place in the world" After he runs away, the police tell Tom that they searched train and bus stations. He claims that his son wouldn't take a train or a bus. Nora then says that she always wanted to run away to Chicago, which was her "Favorite place in the world". This makes him realize exactly where Mark has gone.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Tina.
  • My Beloved Smother: Tina acts this way towards Dylan, who wanted "one perfect child", though it's implied Dylan wanted siblings.
  • Never My Fault: The kids consistently blame their father for their unhappiness and rarely fess up to the chaos they have created at the expense of each other and their parents. To be fair to them, the cause of some of their unhappiness is Tom's fault, though much of the chaos is squarely down to the kids.
  • No Sympathy: Tina to Kate after Mark has run away, saying that twelve children is too many.
  • Oh Crap!: The chandelier contractor after he falls off the ladder and sees the chandelier about to fall on top of him. Again.
  • Out of Focus: Most of the kids aside from Mark.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: The kids' pranks against Hank, who is more Jerkass than evil, but it still counts.
    • Mark's bullies are given a dose of Laser-Guided Karma when Jake, Mike, Jessica and Kim find out what they did to Mark.
  • Rule of Pool: Invoked by the kids as the first part of the plan to get rid of Hank when he first arrives, resulting him in being tripped with a garden hose and landing in a paddling pool.
  • Running Gag: The family's many attempts to install a new chandelier, usually with it falling atop the contractor.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: The camera crew setting up for a taping of the family on the Oprah Winfrey show when the family finally collapses into a full blown fight right in front of them. To add to their disbelief, the segment was to be called "One Big Happy Family".
    Cameraman: (Calling Oprah) No, you do not want to come down here. No, it's the farthest thing from a happy family.
  • Shirtless Scene: Tom Welling's character briefly appears shirtless (unsurprisingly, given how often his character on Smallville did.)
  • Single-Minded Twins: Both pairs of twins act quite similar to each other. It's more noticeable with Kyle and Nigel, since they're identical.
  • Tomboy: Sarah.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Lorraine delivers one to her dad towards the middle of the film.
    Lorraine: You just used your own son as a vomit mop!
    • Charles also gives one to him (towards the end of the film).
  • The Three Certainties in Life: Hank notes, "All I'm saying is families are inevitable; they're like death or taxes."
  • The Unfavorite: Mark, a.k.a. "Fedex", at least in the eyes of his siblings.


The sequel provides examples of:

  • Call Back: When he gets fed up with Jimmy, Tom asks Sarah if she's still "in touch with [her] dark talents." She sets up the same meat trick she pulled in the first movie.
  • Demoted to Extra: Mark. He was the main character, aside from the parents, in the first movie, but is barely in this one.
  • Disaster Dominoes: The destruction of the clam bake. It all starts when Mark absentmindedly sets his backpack full of fireworks next to an open flame.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Lorraine and Sarah have entered this even deeper than in the first film.
  • Forgotten Fallen Friend: Mark never even mentions his frog.
    • It could be interpreted as Mark having moved on after losing Beans.
  • Hidden Depths: Sarina is initially presented as Jimmy's Dumb Blonde trophy wife, but she truly wants to be a good mother to her stepkids. When she sees the wedge that Jimmy's pressuring and obsession with upping Tom is driving between himself and his kids, she sets him straight.
  • Instant Birth, Just Add Water: Averted. Nora is giving hints all day that she's going into labor. She keeps her mouth shut though, so it won't ruin the contest for the family. Until her water breaks in the middle of the final event and she finally has to admit she needs to go to the hospital. There's still a significant amount of time from then until the delivery, though.
  • Lots of Luggage: When Lorraine shows up at the cabin, Sarah keeps jabbing at her for her huge suitcase. "So is this one just for your makeup?"
  • Nautical Knockout: This happens to Tom.
  • Put on a Bus: All the supporting cast.
  • Trophy Wife: Sarina, Jimmy's new wife of "six wonderful months."
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Jimmy Murtaugh and his new trophy wife, Sarina.
  • Unlucky Extra: The poor old man in the wheelchair. Every time he is on screen, he somehow gets pushed into the water. You think he would put on his parking brake, or have someone park him in a less precarious spot.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/CheaperByTheDozen