Movie Review: ‘Cheaper by the Dozen’ stars Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt, and Hilary Duff

Sept 15, 2020

“Cheaper by the Dozen” (2003, PG) reviewed by Jennifer Anne F. Messing.

Cheaper by the Dozen is a one-hour, thirty-eight minute, Twentieth Century Fox Films 2003 release, in color, directed by Shawn Levy, starring Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt, Hilary Duff, Tom Welling and Piper Perabo. This movie is loosely based on the novel with the same title, written by a brother and sister, Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey.

Cheaper by the Dozen tells the story of a charming couple, Tom and Kate Baker (Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt), who are both ambitious, career-minded adults currently living in Midland—a small, rural town in Illinois. Tom and Kate are also devoted, loving parents to their 12 children, and their daily lives are filled with the challenges of creating order and harmony in a large, rambunctious family.

When Tom Baker is offered the job of coaching the college football team of his alma mater, he recognizes it’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance and decides it’s a job he really wants. Tom convinces Kate that although accepting the job offer will require their family to relocate to Chicago, the salary increase combined with the added benefit of free schooling for the kids of faculty members (like himself) will make the move worth it. Tom and Kate soon discover, however, that the kids are not too excited about moving away from the place they’ve called home all their lives.

Not long after they’ve moved into their new, fancy home in Chicago—and Tom has barely had a chance to adjust to his new job—Kate Baker gets a call from a publisher who is interested in publishing her book. They need her to fly to New York immediately, for three days, to sign a contract and to do other promotional work. From Tom Baker’s perspective, it’s an inconvenient time to have Kate flying to New York, so soon after they’ve arrived in Chicago. But Tom wants to encourage Kate with her long-time dream of having her book published, so he encourages her to go. He assures Kate that he can take care of the home and all the kids and manage his coaching job, too, while she’s gone.

When Kate Baker arrives in New York and has a chance to discuss her book’s release with her publisher, she’s told that they’d also like her to do a two-week promotional book tour. Though Kate feels like she’d rather go home and not be away from her family any longer, she decides to go ahead with the book tour.

During the next several days, things at home quickly deteriorate into chaos and disorder. Tom Baker finds it so difficult to manage the eleven children and perform well at his job that, finally in desperation, he calls his oldest daughter, Nora (Piper Perabo), and asks her to move back home temporarily to help with babysitting. The two weeks that Kate is away from home proves to be a trying time for their children. Tom also begins to discover that his dream coaching job is requiring more time than he can give, and still successfully father his own 12 children. When Tom and Kate’s youngest son gets lost one day, the entire family becomes united in their effort to find him and the one other thing they’ve all discovered is priceless.

Cheaper by the Dozen offers a fine message: that, in the end, to succeed at raising one’s own children and keeping one’s family intact is more important than prospering in one’s career. Yes, it’s true that parents can succeed at their jobs and simultaneously manage their home and their kids, but there is a season during the parenting years when some career goals can be put on hold—and they can be pursued again, at a later date, when the children are older. Often, professional goals can be pursued at various times throughout one’s adult life, but once children are grown, their childhood years can never be regained.

Cheaper by the Dozen’s only offensive element involves a few short scenes that show the oldest daughter’s live-in arrangement with her boyfriend. That daughter’s choice, however, is not approved by her parents.

Cheaper by the Dozen boasts an excellent cast of main and supporting actors. Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt are believable and even lovable in their portrayal of the stressed-out but dedicated parents of 12 children. Piper Perabo, who plays the role of the eldest daughter, Nora, and Tom Welling, who plays the oldest son, Charlie, both deliver outstanding support role performances. This is a funny, entertaining, and overall wholesome movie for the entire family.


Movie Trailer: “Cheaper by the Dozen” stars Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt, and Hilary Duff

Comedy/ Family Drama. Rated PG for language and some thematic elements. Recommended for family viewing, with parental input. Photo credits: Twentieth Century Fox Films.

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To Portland, Oregon residents: Cheaper by the Dozen (2003) in DVD format can be rented at Movie Madness, 4320 SE Belmont, Portland, Oregon, 97215, tel. 503-234-4363.



Jennifer Anne Fabregas Messing' s third book, Love's Faithful Promise: Heart-stirring Short Stories and Poems of Romance and Faith was named WINNER of the 2020 American Fiction Awards Christian Inspirational category. She is a Cascade Writing Contest WINNER and three-time FINALIST (“Published Short Story” in 2018 and 2019), a multi-published author, poet, and speaker with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Religious Education. A past president of the Oregon Christian Writers, she has authored three books and more than 250 articles, short stories, and poems published in 60 magazines, including: The Storyteller, Flurries of Words, LIVE, Evangel, FellowScript, and The Proverbs 31 Woman.

Originally from the Philippines, Jennifer Anne has been married to Michael Messing for 29 years. They are the parents of three young adult children and reside in Oregon, USA.

Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin. Get information about her other books, Morning's Promise: Poetic Moments in His Presence and Everlasting Love: Romantic Vignettes for a Woman’s Heart on this website, on Amazon, and Barnes&Noble online.

Copyrighted © by Jennifer Anne Fabregas Messing. All rights reserved. Contact the author for reprint information. Email:

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