Cheaper by the Dozen 2 is a typical family film with lots of laughter and pranks. It also shows what is so typical of the movie world's portrayal of teenagers, in that the teenager in this movie (Lorraine Baker) is not really interested in spending time with her family and is very disinterested in the affairs of her family currently on holiday at the lake.
I watched this movie on the plane back to South Africa from Dakar, Senegal this past Sunday (April 23, 2006).
In my opinion this movie is very much about the two different child rearing styles most prevalent today. The one is a liberal style in which children are not pushed too hard and are not disciplined that much. The other is a conservative style which is based on strong discipline and motivating children to give all they have.
The movie is about a family of 14 (the Bakers). Yes, you read that right! The parents and their 12 children! Hence the title! They embark on a holiday over Labour Day weekend. This holiday turns into a holiday of great contest between two families (Bakers and Murtaughs). You guessed right. These two families are raised on the two opposing styles of child rearing: liberal and conservative.
The conservative family (Murtaugh family) is shown as overbearing, pushy and downright unlikeable. The liberal family (Baker family) is portrayed as fun loving, carefree and almost perfect.
What is really interesting is that the Murtaughs are portrayed specifically as a Christian family of some sorts. One night the Bakers have a sing-song around a fire and sing a typical bonfire song. To compete with the Bakers the Murtaughs on the other side of the lake start singing too... a Christian spiritual song of some kind. This is the indicator that this movie is not just a movie dissing conservatism, but specifically the Christian form of conservatism.
Throughout the movie the Murtaugh children are portrayed as well disciplined drones of a father (Jimmy Murtaugh) that is obsessed with success in life and winning. The children are well mannered and well disciplined; yet, underneath, a rebellion is brewing, apparently because of their strict upbringing. Obviously, when these children get their freedom they are suddenly these well-rounded children ready for the world.
Christian parents are ridiculed in this movie about wanting to check out everything to see if it is good for their children. In one scene the Baker dad's (Tom) daughter Sarah goes to see a movie with Jimmy's son Elliot. Both dads decided to spy on the kids and end up sitting next to each other at the movies. At this point Tom asks Jimmy what he was doing there. The Jimmy's answer is that he was there to see if the movie was okay for his son. "The movie is rated 'G'!", replied Tom. This is such a typical response from Tom. Liberals think that they are the free thinkers in society; however, they have shown themselves to be the ready followers of the cultural "elite" who are bent on making arbitrary rules that should be followed by all of society. This is a case in point. Tom was willing to let his daughter see the movie (okay, it was Ice Age) because someone rated it 'G.'
In Cheaper by the Dozen 2 liberal parenting is hailed as the correct form of parenting when Tom's eldest daughter, Nora Baker-McNulty, who just gave birth to her own baby boy tells her father that he taught them that there is no way to be a perfect parent, but a million ways to be a really good one. Of course, one of those million ways is the liberal style of parenting. This clearly implies that conservative parenting does not fall within one of those million ways.
Conservative parenting is referred to as "tough love" and overparenting. "Tough love" or wanting to set rules for one's children is obviously not part of the liberal parenting agenda.
While Jimmy is blamed for overparenting, Tom can surely be blamed for underparenting. Wherever they go as a family, as Tom himself said, the children are in trouble, getting in trouble or are devising a long term plan that will get them into trouble. This surely shows a form of parenting that is unable to help children to do the right thing! Tom's wife Kate, summed it up so well when she said that they are guiding their children to make the right choices, "what more is there to do?" Clearly, discipline was not even considered. Children must make their own choices don't they?
The fact remains that if children do not experience discipline and the consequences of their actions in their formative years and while they are still too young to consistently choose between right and wrong, they will need discipline. But, that is not the point right now!