Yours, Mine and Ours

2006-07-18 17:58


Widower Frank Beardsley (Dennis Quaid) has pretty much given up on the idea of any romance in his life. After all, who would date a guy with eight kids? But things changes when he runs into his high school sweetheart Helen North (Rene Russo) - who is sadly also widowed - at their 30-year reunion. The pair hit it off instantly and, when Frank plucks up the courage to tell Helen the size of his family, he is in for a surprise: Helen has ten of her own children. Despite the practical challenges of a family with 18 kids, Frank and Helen are swept along by their newly found love and decide to get married. Little do they realise that their two diametrically opposed broods - one disciplined and studious, the other artistic and wild - will not take this unwelcome change lying down.


The most interesting thing about Yours, Mine and Ours has nothing to do with what happens on screen. It's the process that unleashes this kind of washed-out parody of a feature film on the world that is really fascinating.

In this case our story starts with the surprise smash hit of 2003 - Cheaper By The Dozen. A loose reworking of a 1950s comedy (which was itself adapted from a book), the combination of noisy slapstick and warm fuzzy family feelings proved a winner at the box offices, raking in well over $100 million (or roughly $70 million in profits - before DVD sales). Ka-ching!

"Quick!" cries producer Robert Simonds - reigning king of the family McMovie - "People are buying movies with lots of kids. Find me a movie with - like - 25 kids." And so into the archives, grumbling, slopes the poor, latte stained assistant producer. After some concerted rummaging she emerges, triumphantly clutching a moth eaten screenplay for a moderately successful 1968 comedy (plus the rights to make up to 50 sequels until the year 2068, all bought from the original writer for $25 and a bottle of single malt whisky).

"Excellent!" squawks Producer Man (no director can resist his laser eyes) "Now all we need is some cheap and cheerful leads and a couple of cut rate hacks to rewrite the screenplay. Oh and we need 18 tykes. Just give out some flyers in downtown LA - the place is swarming with screen brats".

While actually getting a film made is obviously vastly more complicated than this (there are more business lunches for instance), our little jaunt does highlight the fundamental flaw in the films made by Simonds and his ilk: they are commodities. The starting point is rarely (if ever) - "I have a great script" or even "I have a great idea". It is always "What angle can we use to make the most profit."

The real tragedy is that, even by the own low standards of the producers, Yours, Mine and Ours is a flop. The original may have been charming, but the best this modern copy can manage is inoffensive. Predictability is usually an asset for this kind of movie but in this case the comfort is far outweighed by the tedium of watching the movie clank and creak its way towards a conclusion. There's not one idea, not even one scene in the entire film that hasn't already been explored in a much better movie.

Not that the film is completely without merit. Rene Russo, with her easy elegance and magnetic screen presence is always a pleasure to watch. It's just a pity that someone hasn't been able to compel her legally, physically or otherwise to stop taking dead-end parts like this one. Dennis Quaid is also fun to watch, though it seems he is intent on staving off the ravages of middle age by more and more frequent trips to the tanning salon. The man positively glows, and is beginning to resemble a glazed ham with uncomfortable closeness.

As for the children, they are entirely unremarkable. If there is a future Macaulay Culkin (Lord help us) or Dakota Fanning lurking in their midst they remain well hidden. The all-American good looks of the older siblings is as generic as the cutesy antics of the younger tots. An attempt is made to give each of them a distinct personality, but with 18 nippers on show the movie simply doesn't have the room.

As for the technical aspects of the film, it's clear that Robert Simonds and company realise the first rule of marketing: people will buy a cold turd if you wrap it in cellophane and plonk a bow on it. To this end they've recruited a crew of talented film artisans - many of them Oscar winners - to make this sow's ear into an ersatz silk purse. And they certainly get their money's worth - the film looks great. But good looks aren't going to sustain you though 85 minutes of yawn-inducing familiarity.

In the end the real failure of Yours, Mine and Ours isn't seen when it is compared to the great classics of film history - such comparisons are just silly. It is seen most clearly when compared to other films of it's own time and genre. Even alongside candy-floss escapism like The Nutty Professor or Home Alone, Yours, Mine and Ours STILL ends up at the bottom of the pile. If you really want to see a slapstick family comedy rent Cheaper By The Dozen. At least there's still a whiff of originality left in it.

- Alistair Fairweather

If Yours, Mine and Ours seems like a cheap-and-dirty knock-off of Cheaper by the Dozen, that's because it IS a cheap-and-dirty knock-off of Cheaper by the Dozen.

Nana Ntsaluba 2006/04/04 3:59 PM
Give them a break people! I think that the movie was not as funny as i thaught it would be but it is not the same as cheaper by the dozen the only thing that is the same is the insane amount of children that they have and the whole plot of the movie is different and anyone who says they are the same thing should watch both movies at the same time. Date Movie
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