Every once in a while, you just need a movie to sit down with and enjoy. You don't need deep philosophical drama, well thought out characters, or hidden meanings. Just a very simple, surface level harmless comedy is something everyone needs and these movies are getting quite rare. "Cheaper by the Dozen" is a completely different movie than the original from 1950, but it's still a wild little predictable comedy that fits the mold described above.
Tom Baker (Steve Martin) and his wife Kate (Bonnie Hunt) have a rather unique household, containing eleven kids. Yes, all their own. Their oldest daughter Nora (Piper Perabo) has moved out, though she still plays a role. Tom gets a chance at his dream job, coaching his college alumni's football team. That unfortunately requires a move from the solid foundation they have built. Right after the move, Kate is needed in New York to promote her new book, leaving Tom to try and handle eleven kids by himself in a totally new environment.
There's no doubt that trying to maintain this many kids would be difficult. Most people would be contemplating suicide after the fifth. The kids in this script, while doing their part to keep the peace, are flat out evil at times. Some of the pranks they pull could likely get someone killed, not to mention themselves, and all the parents seem to do is ground them or take away their allowance. Yes, it's all for maximum comedy, but you really have to consider that no one in their right mind is going to let one kid, let alone a herd of them, act like this.
That doesn't mean you're not going laugh. There's plenty of comedy here, aided by a great cast on the surface, leading down the unknowns playing the kids. Running at 90-minutes, there's little time devoted to most of them. Director Shawn Levy focuses on a few of them; basically to make sure the inevitable drama to come later has the most impact.
It's a smart move to keep the running time down and while you'll have fun early on, it falls into the rut you can see coming from the opening moments. The last 20 or so minutes go straight for the heart in predictable fashion without a single laugh to be found. If this was meant to be a dram, that would be fine, but it's not. You're paying money to see what was advertised as a comedy and that's what you should get.