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References to Latter-day Saints (Mormons) in
the feature comedy

Cheaper by the Dozen (2003)

Cheaper by the Dozen (2003)
Directed by Shawn Levy
Screenplay by Sam Harper, Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow
Screen story by Craig Titley
Based on the novel by Frank Bunker Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey

Starring: Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt, Ashton Kutcher, Piper Perabo, Tom Welling, Hilary Duff, Kevin Schmidt, Alyson Stoner, Jacob Smith, Liliana Mumy, Morgan York, Forrest Landis, Blake Woodruff, Brent Kinsman, Shane Kinsman, Paula Marshall, Steven Anthony Lawrence, Alan Ruck, Richard Jenkins

MPAA Rating: PG
U.S. Box Office: $138,614,544
Production budget: $40,000,000

Non-LDS actors Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt star as parents of twelve children in this family film, a loose "remake" of the 1950 classic starring Clifton Webb. Both the 1950 version and this new film were based on the same-titled novel by Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, but the 2003 version is a much looser interpretation. The basic premise remains the same, but the general plot and even the character names have been changed.

"Cheaper by the Dozen" (2003) was directed by Shawn Levy. Craig Titley is credited with writing the screen story. The screenplay was written by Sam Harper, Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow. The estimated production budget was $40 million. The film had a U.S. box office gross of $138,614,544.

Because it is very unusual for a contemporary American family to have twelve children, but Latter-day Saints are known for having large families, movie reviewer Catherine Graham described the "Baker" family in the 2003 version this way: "It was a major mistake to set the remake in current time. Even the appeal of Martin and Hunt as the parents can't make the audience suspend disbelief and go along with the movie's central premise: That a modern, educated, middle class couple without apparent affiliations to the Mormon or Catholic churches find themselves living with 12 offspring." (Santa Cruz Sentinel, 24 December 2003).

Despite this reviewer's assertion that the family is neither Catholic or Mormon, there are subtle clues that the family must be religious, and is probably Catholic. At one point mother (Bonnie Hunt) makes a joke having her daughter go to room to "say the rosary." In The Catholic Leader (12 September 2004; URL: http://www.catholicleader.com.au/index.php?pgnum=7&movnum=298), Fr Richard Leonard SJ (director of the Australian Catholic Film Office) said: "There is only one hint that the family is Catholic, and that comes when Bonnie tells her eldest daughter Nora (Piper Perabo), who at 18 is already living with her boyfriend, to say the Rosary."

It is a safe bet that Baker family featured in the film is not a Latter-day Saint family. But there is an explicit reference to the Church uttered by the family's neighbor from across the street, a father named "Bill Shenk." This character is played by actor Alan Ruck, who is best known for playing Matthew Broderick's best friend "Cameron Frye" in the comedy classic "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" (1986). As most of the Baker children are sneaking out of their house to cross the street and attend their friend Dylan Shenk's birthday party, the scene is introduced with Bill Shenk (the father) joking, "Next time, let's book the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, too." This character is not even referring to the large Baker family, but simply to the over-abundance of guests and entertainment at his young son's birthday party. A trio of profesional string musicans are playing music on the patio by the pool, and Bill Shenk evidently thinks that his wife went too far in the party arrangements and invitations. His next line after this is, "Whatever happened to pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey?"

Bill Shenk (actor Alan Ruck):
"Next time, let's book the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, too."

The reference to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is the only explicit reference to Latter-day Saints in the movie. But many (perhaps most?) Latter-day Saint viewers noticed a pivotal line near the ending of the film which mirrors and may be inspired by a famous quote from President David O. McKay, the ninth president and prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The plot of "Cheaper by the Dozen" revolves around Steve Martin's character ("Tom Baker") moving his wife and their family of 12 children from their comfortable home in small-town Midland to the big city of Chicago so that he can take his dream job: coaching the football team of the university he himself attended. It is a high-pressure job, and comes at the very time that his wife (played by Bonnie Hunt) finally achieves career success by having her first book published. Pressure at work and the absense of his wife while she is on a book tour combine so that family life for the Bakers suffers considerably. When his boss (and old friend, "Shake McGuire," played by actor Richard Jenkins) demands that make a commitment to spending more time with the football team regardless of pressures at home, Tom Baker quits. It is at this point that he paraphases President David O. McKay: "If I screw up raising my kids... nothing I achieve will matter much."

This, of course, mirrors President David O. McKay's famous saying, "No amount of success in this life can compensate for failure in the home."

The scene takes place in "Shake" McGuire's office:

[Tom Baker (Steve Martin) enters Shake McGuire's office at the university. He walks up to the desk, humbly but with resignation.]

Tom Baker (Steve Martin): I'm resigning after the season, Shake.

[Shake McGuire sits back in his chair thoughtfully, looking up at his old friend.]

Shake McGuire (Richard Jenkins): Giving up the dream, huh?

Tom Baker (Steve Martin): [Smiles lightly.] Just going after a different one.

Shake McGuire (Richard Jenkins): No regrets?

Tom Baker (Steve Martin): If I screw up raising my kids... nothing I achieve will matter much.

[Shake McGuire nods his head thoughtfully, but says nothing further.]

Tom Baker (Steve Martin): Thank you.

[Tom Baker (Steve Martin) leans over to shake Shake McGuire's hand. Shake McGuire takes his hand.]

Shake McGuire (Richard Jenkins): We'll make an announcement at the end of the week.

[Tom Baker (Steve Martin) turns and leaves.]


Tom Baker (actor Steve Martin):
"If I screw up raising my kids... nothing I achieve will matter much."

Webpage created 16 September 2004.