"Cheaper by the Dozen 2" proves that less is more -- in comparison to the dismal "Yours, Mine & Ours" remake -- that the occasional comic calamity works better than nonstop chaos and allows for a family comedy that is actually involving, even believable, and manages to be pretty funny too.
Directed perceptively and energetically by Adam Shankman, this sequel to the 2003 hit is as shiny as a Christmas tree ornament yet gives full rein to Steve Martin's warm but sophisticated, richly nuanced talent and shows to advantage a large cast featuring Bonnie Hunt, Eugene Levy and Carmen Electra.
Sam Harper's clever script turns upon a universal tug, which is the reluctance of parents to let their kids go. Faced with the news that pregnant daughter Nora (Piper Perabo) and her husband (Jonathan Bennett) will be moving to Houston and that daughter Lorraine (Hilary Duff) is off to New York, Martin's Tom Baker decides the family should have one last vacation together, at their beloved Lake Winnetka, Wis.
The Bakers' 12 kids are reluctant, but Dad, with a nudge from Mom (Hunt), persuades them to agree to the plan. Clearly, the Bakers, based in the Chicago area, haven't vacationed there for some years, and the remorseless course of change that gives this comedy its shading hits home when they're faced with the ramshackle condition of the place they so enjoyed in the past. Tom rallies the troops, but a more daunting prospect looms across the lake: a lavish log palace, only slightly smaller than Old Faithful Inn, constructed by Tom's lifelong rival, Jimmy Murtaugh (Levy), who has but eight children, about a zillion bucks, a gorgeous third wife (Electra) and who now owns almost the entire resort community.