It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"Cheaper by the Dozen 2" is the kind of title, like "The Other Side of the Mountain," that starts you wondering why they didn't call it "This Side of the Mountain." Or, more to the point, "Even Cheaper by Two Dozen." All sequel titles tell you is that if you liked the doughnuts, why not buy another box? At which your mother would tell you to save some room for dinner, and I would suggest a new movie.
Still, as I watched this sequel, a certain good feeling began to make itself known. Yes, the movie is unnecessary. However, it is unnecessary at a higher level of warmth and humor than the recent remake "Yours, Mine and Ours." And it has more plausible parents, even though neither actor, so far as I know, has any children.
Steve Martin, whose adamant loner in "Shopgirl" is possibly autobiographical (he wrote the original novella), uses his status as a non-accumulator of kids as a basis for Dad Baker, who is affectionate but not soppy. And Bonnie Hunt, as Mom, is the kind of mother who understands she essentially has a job in management. I am not even a little surprised that she has three brothers and three sisters and used to work as a nurse in the oncology ward at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
What I liked the most about the second "Dozen," however, was another performance, the one by Alyson Stoner as their daughter Sarah. As a girl poised on the first scary steps of adolescence, she finds the kind of vulnerability and shy hope that Reese Witherspoon projected in "The Man in the Moon" (1991), which contains a first kiss so sweet you remember it 15 years later.