December 22, 2005


 Cheaper by the Dozen 2 Throughout this movie, I kept thinking: What a waste of wonderful talent.

Yet, throughout this movie, I also listened to two lovely 8-year-old girls who laughed the entire time.

They loved it. “A-plus,” they both said when I asked how they would rate the film. And because they laughed and loved it, I actually found myself feeling the same way by the closing credits.

This sequel stars three of my favorite comedians: Steve Martin, who reprises his role as the former coach and dad of the dozen; Eugene Levy, a neighbor who pushes all the wrong competitive buttons with Martin’s character; and Bonnie Hunt, back as the mom of the crew. Yet, compared to what they have done in other movies, all three are disappointing. Levy and Martin become nothing more than caricatures of their comedy routines, while Hunt goes to the extreme with her deadpan mom act. No one who has children—let alone 12 children—is that calm.

The children in the family are growing up and leaving the nest, so dad tries to recapture the magic of vacation days gone by with one last Labor Day hurrah at Lake Winnetka. There is competition, more dog jokes and dad does go over the top. Still, while I rolled my eyes at the predictable jokes, the two little girls marveled and giggled right on cue.

True, this movie has its faults, such as: The plot is predictable. The sweet moments are saccharine. The humor is juvenile. And excuse me, after two movies, how is it that half of these kids are still negligible characters? But I also have to say, the lessons here are good—family is important and kids, as they get older, need guidance, not directives. There is also a lovely little subplot about tomboy daughter Sarah, played by Alyson Stoner, who has her first crush on the neighbor boy. OK, yes, I misted up as she went off on her first date.

Bottom line? I’ve sat through much worse movies with my kids—do I need to say “Pokemon”? Therefore, it’s actually not a bad way to spend a few hours with the family on a winter day.

Susy Schultz


Product Review  Christmas Gamesake (Jocapa Products, LLC, $29.95)

This was a very interesting game. You record your favorite family memories, traditions and achievements on the enclosed gift cards, and personalize the game board with family locations and milestones. Then, as you play, your family, hopefully, re-discovers those special memories as you race to the North Pole.

I had to write for my kindergartner, but my 8-year-old wrote many family Christmas stories.

It is just so different from any other game. So, I would recommend it to everyone. If you want to start a new tradition, or hang on to your children’s favorite stories to enjoy year after year, go buy this one-of-a-kind game. Susan Drenth, mom of Megan, 5, and Kyle, 8, Lansing


Family-style New Year celebrations The December edition of Chicago Parent featured a roundup of family-friendly New Year celebrations. This is a recap of those events, in case you missed it the first time.

Homewood’s New Year’s Eve Day Celebration. Celebrate with hats, horns, a balloon drop and snacks in a smoke-free and alcohol-free environment. Village Hall Auditorium. 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Dec. 31. Families. Free. 2010 Chestnut Rd., Homewood. (708) 798-3000,

New Year’s Eve Kids Countdown. Music, a balloon drop, party hats and noisemakers—all on the ice. Oak Lawn Ice Arena. 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Dec. 31. Families. $7, $2.50 skate rental. Extra costs for food. 9320 S. Kenton Ave., Oak Lawn. (708) 857-5173,

Ring in the New Year Celebration. Celebrate New Year’s traditions from a different continent each day. Lake County Discovery Museum, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Dec. 27-29. Families with kids ages 4-12. Free with museum admission. Route 176 and Fairfield Road, Wauconda. (847) 968-3400,

New Year’s Eve Celebration. Music, punch, cookies, hats and noisemakers. Wonder Works Children’s Museum. Noon-4 p.m. Dec. 31. Families. $5, free members. 6445 W. North Ave., Oak Park. (708) 383-4815,

SciTech’s Annual New Year’s Eve Party. Ring in the New Year with hands-on activities and snacks. SciTech Hands On Museum. 2-5 p.m. Dec. 31. Families. Free with museum admission. 18 W. Benton St., Aurora. (630) 859-3434,

Zoo Year’s Eve. A special countdown, crafts and carolers. Brookfield Zoo. 5-8 p.m. Dec. 31. Families. $8, $4 kids 3-11 and seniors, free kids 2 and under. $8 parking. 8400 W. 31st St., Brookfield. (708) 485-0263,

Winter Wonderland Holiday Light Show at the Cuneo Museum and Gardens. Visitors drive through historic grounds filled with more than 250 animated light displays. 6-10 p.m. Through Jan.1. Closed Dec. 24-25. $5 per car, $10 per car Friday-Sunday. Enter at Route 60 and Lakeview Parkway, Vernon Hills. Follow the blue and white Winter Wonderland traffic signs. (847) 362-3042,

First Night Evanston. Illinois’ largest arts festival, with 19 stages hosting opera, circus performers, magicians, puppeteers and more. At midnight, see fireworks at the lake off of Church Street. 6 p.m.-1:30 a.m. Dec. 31. Families. $14, $8 kids 6-12, free kids 5 and under. Davis Street and Orrington Avenue, Evanston. (847) 475-NITE (6483),

New Year’s Eve on the Plaza. Put together by volunteers for the city’s Special Events Commission, this free event includes crafts for kids at the History Center, live music and free pizza, carriage rides, bowling and family karaoke. Participants receive gift certificates from local businesses and the alcohol-free atmosphere means fun for all ages. Des Plaines Library. 7:30 p.m. to midnight. Dec. 31. (847) 922-0556, Alena Murguia


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