As if 2003's insufferable "Cheaper by the Dozen
" remake had twelve kids too many, along comes "Yours, Mine & Ours," which ups the ante to eighteen of the little suckers. A remake itself (this one of a 1968 film starring Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda), the only bright side to this dimwitted trifle is that it just barely improves upon the Steve Martin-Bonnie Hunt monstrosity, and that is only due to three or four cute one-liners. Everything else about "Yours, Mine & Ours" is perfectly horrid, a would-be slapstick farce stuffed to bursting with pratfalls and paint falling on people's heads, only to predictably switch gears toward sickeningly saccharine emotions and obvious violin-laden music cues as artificial as a pair of dentures.
Frank Beardsley (Dennis Quaid), a by-the-books Coast Guard admiral, and Helen North (Rene Russo), an artsy handbag designer, are a pair of recent widowers with eighteen children between them. Having not seen each other since they dated in high school, Frank and Helen have a chance run-in shortly before their twenty-year high school reunion and discover that the old spark they once had is still very much alive. Before they have even made it back home to their children, Frank and Helen have eloped. Moving into a broken-down mansion/lighthouse, the abrupt addition to each family of eight and ten kids turns out to be more than anyone bargained for. Miserable and constantly bickering, Frank and Helen's offspringrunning the gamut from about three years old to seventeenplot to purposefully sabotage their parent's marriage so they can have their old lives back.
The sound of the premise for "Yours, Mine & Ours," directed by Raja Gosnell (2004's "Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed
"), doesn't exactly warm one's heart, and even when the movie attempts to do just that during the moralistic finale, it isn't believable for a second and merely feels predictably banal. When these kids come together and discover they arewait for itone big happy family after all, there is no rhyme or reason for their turnaround feelings aside from the plot's necessity for them to do so. It doesn't help that there isn't a single three-dimensional relationship formed between any two of them, let alone collectively. The closest thing to depth is between teen step-siblings Phoebe (Danielle Panabaker) and Christina (Katija Pevec), who fight over a lunkhead jock before finding that he isn't worth either of their affections. In other words, there isn't any depth at all, only shallow, by-the-number subplots.
Before their climactic about-face, all eighteen of these minors are unspeakably immature and destructive terrors who create havoc and cause damage wherever there is possible damage to be caused. When they are scolded, they don't actually take seriously the wrongs they have done. And the rest of the time, as they secretly join forces to break up Helen and Frank by playing them against their differences (he is a control-freak and she is loose and disorganized), the picture presents unsettling actions that uncover each of them to not care in the least about their parent's happiness. Had one of the older kids stood up and disagreed with what they were doing, or if one actually had more serious issues with growing up amidst so much chaos and vying for the attention of their mom or dad, it might have brought a fresh and/or truthful offset to the groan-inducing mindlessness of it all. However, in painting these underage characters as wholly self-absorbed, mean-spirited and out of control, director Raja Gosnell and a team of four obviously out-to-lunch screenwriters have made what amounts to a pro-abortion propaganda film. No one in their right mind would breed with the foreknowledge that they would grow up into these brats.
As newlywed parents Frank Beardsley and Helen North, Dennis Quaid (2004's "In Good Company
") and Rene Russo (2002's "Big Trouble
") cling by a thread to their dignity and almost pull it off. Russo fares better than Quaid on this count, but then, she doesn't have back-to-back groan-inducing scenes where she meets a fate worse than the home-invading burglars in director Raja Gosnell's own "Home Alone 3." These scenes, moldy as all get-up and unbelievably lame and lazy besides, are quintessential proof of how wrong the studio system can sometimes be when targeting children. Kids may laugh at fart jokes and bonks on the head, but there is nothing there to expand their imaginations or take away with them. As for the younger performers, made up of some recognizable up-and-comers who would do well to hide this on their résumésI'm talking to you, Danielle Panabaker (2005's "Sky High
"), Sean Faris (2004's "Sleepover
") and Miranda Cosgrove (2003's "School of Rock
")none manage better than displaying one or two defining character traits. Finally, the marvelous Linda Hunt (2002's "Dragonfly
") is wasted but has a couple amusing moments as gleefully negligent live-in babysitter Mrs. Munion.
That condescending, audience-insulting junk like "Yours, Mine & Ours" will open on over two thousand screens, and yet a charming masterpiece of a family film like the recent "Little Manhattan
" is being buried by major studio 20th Century Fox with a nonsensical limited release and zero promotional support is tragic. Watching "Yours, Mine & Ours" by itself is a disheartening, depressing experience, as comedically stupid and emotionally false as it is creatively bankrupt, but making it a double feature with "Little Manhattan
" could actually be valuable in comparing the two extremes of how and how not to make a motion picture for family audiences. If the characters that inhabit this movie are supposed to even remotely resemble human beings, then give me aliens. It could only be a step up on the evolutionary ladder.