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Film / Cheaper by the Dozen (2003)

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The more the scarier!
"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)

Cheaper by the Dozen is a 2003 film starring Steve Martin about him, his wife and their twelve kids. Count 'em, twelve. It was directed by Shawn Levy.

It is a remake of a 1950's film, itself based on a 1948 book.

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.

It was released on December 25, 2003.

A sequel was released on December 21, 2005.

A remake starring Zach Braff and Gabrielle Union debuted on Disney+ on March 18, 2022.

This film provides examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: Charlie’s conflict with being bullied by the city kids.
  • 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 underwear in meat. That is so wrong. Funny, but wrong."
  • Adoption Diss: Mark's nickname of "FedEx" is used by his siblings to imply this.
  • Always Identical Twins: Averted with Jessica and Kim, but played straight with Kyle and Nigel.
  • Ambiguously Related: The Baker kids. Especially Mark. Mark is usually picked on by his siblings, particularly Sarah, who calls him "FedEx" and claims that he is adopted and that the FedEx guy dropped him off because he doesn't fit in with this family. While Kate narrates all the kids she's given birth to, she mentions Mark.
  • An Aesop:
    • Don't put your ambitions above your family's needs.
    • Don't bite off more than you can chew.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other:
    • None of the Baker kids, especially Sarah, care very much when Mark's frog Beans dies while they're in the middle of a family argument, but when they find out he ran away, they're all shocked and actively take part in the search for him. Prior to that, Jake, Jessica, and Mike beat the tar out of a couple of bullies who picked on him.
    • Lorraine and Sarah also have a moment of this, where Mark says when he's reunited with everyone that he figured everyone hated him as Sarah and Lorraine seem to, only for Lorraine to say, "There are times when I'd want to kill Sarah, but I'd kill for her all the time."
  • 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 confront the bullies and give them some Laser-Guided Karma. Subverted in this case though, as Jake is the only member of this group who is older than Mark.
  • Big Fancy House: The Bakers' new home after they move house early on in the film.
  • Bookends: 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 the number twelve.
  • Bratty Halfpint: Sarah. Especially when she's torturing Lorraine.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: In-Universe. While the Bakers are watching Tom's interview by Fox Sports, he looks into the camera and says, "Go to bed, kids!" Kate turns the TV off and sends the kids to bed.
    Kate: "OK, you heard the coach."
  • Calling the Old Man Out: During a hectic day in the Baker house:
    Lorraine: You just used your own son as a vomit mop!
  • Child Hater: Hank. He puts having a family after death and taxes, and outright calls the kids "monsters" when he and Nora walk in on a fight.
  • Child Prodigy: Kim and Jessica are very brainy for their age.
  • Crime of Self-Defense: Mark's siblings standing up for him against his bullies gets them in trouble with the school and Tom.
  • Despair Event Horizon: After the segment with Oprah is ruined, Kate and Tom have all but stopped talking, the children are all at each other's throats and Mark is left grieving over the sudden death of his beloved frog. And then, Mark runs away, fed up with all the fighting and feeling neglected by his family.
  • Dramatic Irony: As Mark attacks Sarah for calling him FedEx and a huge verbal and physical fight between the Baker family breaks out, the cameraman preparing for the family's segment with Oprah asks his assistant "what's this segment called again?". He replies nervously, "One big happy family?". The cameraman then calls the people that work at Oprah and tell them not to come over to work at the Baker house due to ongoing chaos in the Baker family. And he tells him "it's the farthest thing from a happy family".
  • Enfante Terrible: Again, Sarah.
  • Establishing Character Moment: As the Shenks are approaching the new Baker house after they've just moved in, Tina reveals herself as a Jerkass in her first line when she notices the cartons and cups on the dashboard of the Baker van: "Oh, God. They're fast food people."
  • Exiled to the Couch: Implied. Before it's revealed that Mark ran away from home, Kate tells Tom, "Feel free to sleep on the couch." Tom replies, "You read my mind", implying he was going to anyway.
  • Exploding Closet: Kate tries to get a dress to wear for the family's interview with Oprah, which is located inside an overstuffed closet that was filled in by twins Kyle and Nigel in their way of cleaning up the house.
  • Fatal Flaw: Pride is Tom's throughout the film. He moves the family to their new home simply so he can pursue his dream job and look good in front of Shake. He also tells Kate he can handle looking after the kids by himself when she goes to New York. Cue an Oh, Crap! from him when she tells him she's gone for at least two weeks, and he has to ask Nora for help, which means she has to give up time from her new job. Understandably, Kate is quite angry with Tom when she comes home. And all of this ends up leading to Mark running away. When Tom catches up to him, Mark tells Tom he didn't keep his promise of them becoming a happier and stronger family.
  • Food and Animal Attraction: The kids prank 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: Shake's offer to Tom leads to the family moving houses, Kate's book is going to be published, the family is pushed to the ragged edge by each other, Mark's frog dies, Mark runs away, and Tom eventually gives up his dream job for the family's sake.
    • Early on, when Kate hugs Mark but then gets distracted by Nigel and Kyle wrestling, she looks around for him and sees him cycling away. Mark later snaps and runs away from home when it looks to him like no one cares about him.
    • Mark's drawing of the Midland house that he shows to Tom, along with the caption, "My favorite place in the world". When he runs away, he plans on going there, and Tom realizes this thanks to a Meaningful Echo.
    • Mark is seen late in the film tending to Beans and at one point begging him not to die. Unfortunately, he does die and the argument that follows Sarah's rude outburst causes Mark to run away.
  • From the Mouths of Babes: Nigel and Kyle call Shake a "hot dog" in Shake's first appearance, but only because they'd heard Kate call him that and are probably not aware of what she meant.
  • Funny Background Event: As Dylan is taken to the hospital after receiving a broken arm courtesy of Tom accidentally falling on him, Tina (as she tells Tom "Your children are never playing with Dylan again!") can be seen bumping into a door, proceeding to nurse her injured butt as she walks alongside the gurney.
  • Groin Attack: A variation, as the kids steal Hank's boxers and soak them in raw meat as he waits for his clothes to be dried, before siccing the dog onto him at the table.
  • 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!
  • Heroes' Frontier Step: After seeing the family spiral into an abyss of dysfunction and conflict, the whole family puts aside their issues to go look for Mark after he tearfully runs away from home, proving that despite their issues,they still care for one another.
  • Humiliation Conga: This happens to Charlie whenever he gets anywhere near the premises of his new high school. In succession, he gets stared down by two jocks, mocked by his coaches (one of whom also disses his dad to his face), gets demoted on his team before he even gets to play a single game, gets taunted by bullies for driving an old car and for being from farm country, gets laughed at for accidentally setting off the car alarm of the main bully's car, has to have his sister restrain him from fighting one of them after they diss his family and threaten him, gets corn stuffed in his locker as a prank after practice, and then gets kicked off the football team. And that's only what is seen in the film proper (its implied there was more harassment going on that just wasn't shown).
  • Improbable Infant Survival: Played straight with the Baker kids, averted with Kate's sister, who died as a child in the backstory.
  • 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.
    • Tom too, to a smaller extent. He moves the family to Chicago when it's obvious none of the kids want to go. Why? So he can pursue his dream job and says they will be a happier and stronger family as a result. None of the kids buy it and when Tom catches up to Mark after the latter runs away, Mark tells Tom he didn't keep his promise to the family because they're no happier than they were.
  • Jerkass:
    • The unnamed bully (played by Jared Padalecki) of Charlie when he goes to his new high school.
    • 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. Bill, on the other hand, is much friendlier and promptly agrees to help with the search party.
  • 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 anymore. We'd be like... eleven.
    • Also, when they find out Mark is being bullied, Jake, Mike, Jessica, and Kim are quick to avenge him despite knowing that it will earn them Tom's wrath once he hears about it.
    • 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 college, 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.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: The younger kids are clearly shown to be in the wrong to try chasing Hank away with pranks, but they were right that he was unworthy of Nora's time.
  • Karma Houdini: The guys who bully Charlie - and, for that matter, the two football coaches who give him a hard time as well - never get any comeuppance in the film proper and, if anything, win out when he gets kicked off the team.
  • Kick the Dog: Sarah telling Mark that no one cares about Beans dying, and then calling him FedEx again. Mark shouts at her to stop calling him that, then goes at her, sparking a fight between all twelve kids and their parents.
  • Kid Has a Point: When Tom confronts Charlie about the latter being kicked off the football team and attempting to run away back to Midland, Charlie goes into a "The Reason You Suck" Speech where he tells Tom that while he may claim he took the coaching job for the good of the family, the truth is it was less about that and more about wanting to get some glory at his alma mater after being a benchwarmer during his time there. Later on, Charlie apologizes for what he said, but Tom admits he was right.
  • 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 injured by Tom falling on him. It was still his best birthday ever.
  • Man Hug: Tom and Shake the first time they're onscreen together, at the start of the scene where Shake pitches his offer to Tom.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings:
    • The Baker clan has, well, a dozen, seven sons (Charlie, Henry, Jake, Mark, Mike, Nigel, and Kyle) and five daughters (Nora, Lorraine, Sarah, Jessica, and Kim).
    • And yet, it doesn't make them a Baker's dozen.
    • According to Kate's voice-over early on, Tom had seven brothers and sisters growing up, and after Kate's sister died, she wished she had seven brothers and sisters as well.
  • 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.
  • Middle Child Syndrome: An interesting example combined with Out of Focus; Henry and Sarah are never shown going to school, while the rest of the kids are.
  • Mood Whiplash: Two, involving hugs.
    • As Mark is leaving for school at the start and tells Kate he doesn't feel like he fits in the Baker family, Kate tells him he does fit and hugs him, then seconds later gets distracted by Nigel and Kyle wrestling on the lawn.
    • After the Oprah segment is canceled, Jessica witnesses Tom tell Kate he was going to sleep on the couch and asks if Tom and Kate will get a divorce. Tom wordlessly picks her up and hugs her. Then comes a big moment of shock when Kate appears and tells them Mark has run away.
  • My Beloved Smother: Tina acts this way towards Dylan, as she 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 Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Played with. When Jake, Jessica, Kim, and Mike find out Mark is being bullied at school, they give the bullies a dose of Laser-Guided Karma by beating them up. It still gets them punished both by their principal, and then by Tom, who grounds them.
  • Noodle Incident: Before Nora and her fiancé Hank visit the Baker family, Kate tells the kids not to burn his pants again.
  • No Sympathy:
    • Sarah telling Mark no one cares about Beans after Mark tells Kate Beans has died.
    • Tina to Kate after Mark has run away, saying that twelve children are too many.
    • Hank to Nora, also after Mark has run away. This leads to her breaking up with him.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Tom at the beginning during breakfast when he sees Beans in the lamp above the table, with Mark reaching towards it with his net.
    • Tom when he tries to grab Dylan hanging from the chandelier and ends up hanging from it himself.
    • Tom has one when Kate calls him from New York to say she will be staying there for longer than expected.
    • Henry has a brief moment when he slips on a puddle on Nigel's vomit on the kitchen floor.
    • Many people at Dylan's party when the snake the Baker kids got for him escapes from its box.
    • When a helium tank gets knocked onto the bounce house, Tom feels it overinflate beneath his feet and he realizes it's gonna blow, just as the bounce house explodes, sending Tom and everyone else flying. Then Dylan gets one when he sees Tom is about to land on him.
    • The chandelier contractor after he falls off the ladder and sees the chandelier about to fall on top of him. Again.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Kate's parents due to her sister dying in childhood.
  • Parents as People: Tom and Kate obviously love and do their best to take care of their kids, but having their attention divided between all twelve of them causes the two to make mistakes.
  • 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.
  • Please, Don't Leave Me: A variation. Mark is seen late in the film begging Beans not to die. Unfortunately, Beans does die.
  • Practically Different Generations: Nora Baker, the eldest of the twelve children, is a 22-year-old adult who has left home and lives with her boyfriend. The youngest Baker children, twins Kyle and Nigel, are about five or six years old (their dad Tom finally got a vasectomy after the twins were born). All the other kids fall somewhere in between the nearly two-decade age gap.
  • Rage Breaking Point: Mark reaches it after Beans has died, and Sarah cruelly tells him no one cares. This also serves as the family's collective breaking point, as they all get into a fight that is so bad, the Oprah crew begs her not to show up.
    Mark: Mom, Beans is dead.
    Sarah: Nobody cares about your stupid frog right now, FedEx, okay?!
    Mark: Stop calling me that! (attacks her)
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Tom gets one from Charlie after Charlie is kicked off the football team due to being bullied. At the end of it, Charlie tells Tom that once he graduates, he's leaving.
    Charlie: I don't fit in this town, Dad. I'm going back to Midland!
    Tom: You are not dropping out of school, and you are not walking out on this family!
    Charlie: What family? Ever since we moved here, everybody's been looking out for #1—especially you and Mom.
    Tom: Your mother and I are doing what we think is best for everyone.
    Charlie: Whoa, whoa, whoa. You did not take this coaching job for us! You took this because you were a loser in college while Shake was out there being a superstar! If you want your shot at glory, Dad, if you wanna have it all, you do what you gotta do. But quit feeding us this line about being a "happier and stronger family". This move was about you! And y'know what? I don't have to sit here and pay the price for your life choices. I'm leaving! (he heads for the door, but Tom stops him)
    Tom: You're staying!
    Charlie: Are you gonna make me?
    Tom: Charlie, I love you. I want you to have the best life you can have. And that means you're getting a diploma.
    Charlie: When I graduate, I'm gone.
    (He storms out, leaving Tom hurt)
  • 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 kiddie pool.
  • The Runaway: Mark becomes this after Beans dies and Sarah tells him no one cares.
    • During the search for Mark, Nora reveals she ran away from Midland a few times growing up, and considered getting on a train to go to Chicago.
  • 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:
    • Kate does this to the book tour in New York when the kids call her after the party scene, and Sarah tells her to come home immediately, because of how bad things are.
    • 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.
    • Charlie tries to do this by saying he wants to go back to Midland. Tom tells him he is not going to walk out on the family. In the end, Charlie implies he will do this once he graduates, after Calling the Old Man Out. He drives off anyway but does return at some point, as Tom comes to his room later that night to tell him Mark has run away. Charlie tries to apologize to Tom for his "Reason You Suck" Speech and admits that he was out of line, but Tom says he was right.
    • Mark does this by running away after Beans dies, saying no one cares about him and it's not until the evening of the same day that anyone notices he has gone.
  • Shaking the Rump: Kate does this in front of Tom in one scene ("Twelve kids later and we've still got the heat!").
  • Shirtless Scene: Charlie (Tom Welling's character) briefly appears shirtless (unsurprisingly, given how often his character on Smallville did.)
  • Show-and-Tell Antics: Discussed when Kate Baker tells one of her sons, Mike, that he has show and tell at school while reminding him that "body parts do not count."
  • 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.
  • Surprise Pregnancy: In the backstory, Tom and Kate had planned on having eight children, but then Jessica and Kim turned out to be twins. They were fine with settling at nine until they had too much to drink at a party and Mike was born nine months later. Tom finally decided to get a vasectomy, but he ignored the doctor explaining that he needed to wait a few weeks for the procedure to be effective, leading to Nigel and Kyle.
  • The Three Certainties in Life: Hank notes, "All I'm saying is families are inevitable; they're like death or taxes."
  • Triumphant Reprise:
    • Kate listing positive things to associate with the number twelve at the end of the film, as opposed to neutral or negative things as she did at the beginning.
    • Before Kate calls Tom after finding out what has happened while she has been in New York, the scoreboard shows the Stallions lost against a team called the Pythons, when the situation at home seems to be at its nadir. At the end, when Tom gives up his job, the same scoreboard is seen again and this time, the Stallions have won against a team called the Ridgebacks, and shortly after that comes a big family hug on the field.
  • The Unfavorite: Mark, a.k.a. "FedEx", at least in the eyes of his siblings.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom:
    • Mike at Dylan's party. Jake tells him to go get the football they got for Dylan so they can play with it. When he does, he knocks some of the presents over, and the Brazilian mud viper they also got for him escapes. The resulting panic causes Tom to realize the kids have gone, and to enlist the players to round them up, as well as, in trying to get Sarah, Tom ending up breaking Dylan's arm by accident.
    • Sarah dishes out a Kick the Dog moment to Mark after Beans dies, causing him to lash out in anger. This causes a massive fight that causes the scheduled Oprah segment to have to be canceled and cause an upset Mark to run away from home.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: Two in the same scene. Nigel sees red sauce on Mike's athletic cup and vomits on the floor thinking that its blood. Henry comes in and slips on the vomit, causing him to throw up too.
  • You Are Grounded!: Tom says this almost word for word to the kids when their poor behavior gets out of hand.