PG, and that mostly fits what we're looking at. Since I'm going to be comparing this to its natural cousin, Cheaper by the Dozen, I have to say that Yours, Mine, & Ours is the bad boy of the two. I'm not saying it is a rebel or anything, but there is something edgier about the whole thing. It's really weird that we're fighting for a marriage that probably shouldn't have happened so quickly. The kids are just meaner in this one. There's a lot more behavior issues. Also, bullying is apparently the answer to some problems. Who knew? PG.
DIRECTOR: Raja Gosnell
My wife loves movies about big families. I get it. I was an only child basically for my entire life. My mom remarried after my dad died, but my siblings were adults...so whatever. I swear, my wife uses these movies at templates. It's just such an odd thing that movies just want to get a billion kids on screen at the same time. Last time, I said that I watch Cheaper by the Dozen because Tom Welling was in it. I can't tell you why I've seen this movie before. I have. I definitely remember watching this movie in all of its 2005 glory. But why I watched it, I have no idea. Perhaps it came down to the fact that it was a five dollar movie and I had nothing to do. I just know that I can't divorce the fact that it was trying to market off of Cheaper by the Dozen.
And what a bar to set too. It's odd, in retrospect, to think of Cheaper by the Dozen as a box office hit, enough to have a copycat film happen a few years later. In the MPAA section, I talk about the idea that Yours, Mine & Ours is the slightly more rebellious version of the same film. If Cheaper by the Dozen is wholesome Disney, Yours, Mine, & Ours is the slightly more rebellious Nickelodeon version. The kids are a little meaner. Everyone in this movie is a straight up jerk. It's harder to like the movie a little bit because of it. The kids in Cheaper all picked on one kid, which made me angry. But this was a bunch of kids all hating each other. Really, no one is off the hook for this one.
But the thing that really confuses me is the message of the film. Cheaper had a really screwed up message of "Dads can't do anything right". It's in the background and I spend the entire blog on that one defending that argument in the movie. But in this one, the parents are actually kind of wrong. Yeah, I'm a judgy person, especially when it comes to fictional characters. I acknowledge that it is very sad that these fine people lost their spouses. I also love the fact that they were high school sweethearts. But the movie really fast-tracks some moral choices in the attempt to get the story moving. They marry...immediately? Like, these two people who haven't seen each other in at least twenty years, just marry like that? I mean, I'm going to get real Catholic right now. Marriage is a sacrament and a commitment. I'm oddly more cool with casual divorce in movies than I am with people getting married on a moment's notice. I know, this is really uncomfortable for me to say. I am not a widower. I hope not to be a widower until I'm very old, but in reality, I want to die first. Still, having that many kids, and that much responsibility, these kids have a point. Dating provides a lot of insight into the conflicts that two people would have before getting married. It's really uncomfortable to think that these characters have so much trouble during their marriage, but that's kind of the point that the movie kind of shirks around. They tried to Dharma & Greg the entire situation, which probably explains the ampersand in the title. (Dharma & Greg had an ampersand, right?)
The movie, instead, tells us that the kids are wrong. I mean, the kids ARE wrong for wanting to break them up and how they handle the situation, but the parents decided to throw all of the rules out the window. It actually makes no real sense with Frank's character, who is all about the rules. That's something else entirely. But these kids are thrown into this whirlwind where things are normal and then they are just asked to be normal. Dating does go a long way to kind of smoothing out these issues. I really wonder if there was a draft where the entire thing is about dating. Yeah, you can't get them to move into a lighthouse, which is a visual thing that feels like the filmmakers really wanted to do. I know the marriage introduces the element of chaos that makes the movie fly, but the morality becomes really skewed. The big lesson at the end of the film is that the two families realize that they want to continue being one family and that family sticks up for themselves. The kids realize everything that they have been doing to Frank and Helen has been completely toxic and shortsighted. But the morality lies on them still and their feelings made sense. Instead, by having Frank and Helen date, it makes the kids commit a crime on their own and when they have that redemptive moment, that bunch is all the more important. Where the redemptive arc is now, it feels like that's just a desperate attempt to end the movie. There's no real moment where they realize they need each other. Sure, there are moments throughout the film where the separate families watch out for each other, but there's nothing inherently important about them being legally a family that forces that moment.
I really feel like I'm becoming more gender bias despite the fact that I am desperately trying to be less. Between Marriage Story, Cheaper by the Dozen, and now this, I find myself sympathizing with the male protagonist way more than the female protagonist. It seems like every story has the dad be the one who is the bad guy, despite doing nothing wrong. Every single joke that is about one of the parents seems to be anti-dad. Dad keeps trying to maintain a sense of structure and we're supposed to laugh at that. Again, if we use Dharma & Greg as our template, Helen's foibles are meant to be charming. She likes a messy room, there are no consequences to action, she's a free spirit. Oh no. Nothing bad ever happens to her. In fact, the one scene where she rips Frank apart is when his kids clean up her area. She acts like a monster to those kids. Yeah, it was part of the break up plan. But considering that she's so tolerant when terrible things happen to other people, her hypocrisy is never really addressed in that moment. She gets really mad that someone tried doing something nice to her. From her perspective, someone did something nice that they didn't understand was a problem. Yet, she still is about to get a divorce about the whole thing. There's also these grand gestures that Frank makes that are painted in a light that make him look like a jerk. Helen doesn't like to be arm candy, which I'm on her team for. I get that. But when he is blind-sided by his promotion, he actually makes the right call. But it seems like Helen holds him in contempt for making the sacrificial choice. She would be livid if he had accepted that post, but there's this weird passive aggressive thing going on throughout.
Helen never even gets wrecked by one of the traps. There's a narrative reason for this: Helen should be able to enjoy it based on her character choices. I don't know why there's an open kiddie pool full of slime, but she hypothetically should be able to roll with the punches if she fell into slime. I bet you she wouldn't, but that might have been a discussion at the time. Also, it's funnier to see a male character get completely destroyed by a kiddie pool full of slime. But it seems like the movie doesn't really trust women to be the bad guys once in a while. Instead, the movie goes out of its way to give Frank all these scenarios where he is in a no-win situation that makes him look like the bad guy. Why isn't Helen the bad guy? Why aren't the kids the bad guy? There's actually something kind of telling how bad the kids get when there is no discipline in the house. But I can't even say that! Do you know why? Frank's kids are also super evil. Maybe the message of the movie is that, when you get a whole bunch of kids together, they end up being kind of evil and awful. The Dharma & Greg model always comes across a little stilted because it's the whole Jack Lemmon / Walter Matthau Odd Couple thing going on throughout the entire film. One has to be clean; one has to be messy. One has to be a big believer in the rules (me); one has to do whatever. People live in shades of character. But that's no fun, especially for kids. Kids love when there are defined archetypes and that Yours, Mine & Ours really lives in that spectrum.
But that's not to say the movie isn't fun. Yeah, I get slight depression thinking of the moral complexities of a film like this (a sentence of which I'm ashamed). But it does everything a kid wants to happen in a movie. There's actually an adult falling in slime. That's so on the nose, I can't even begin to analyze it. Also, Danielle Panabaker, as a young girl, is in the movie. She's on The Flash. I mean, she wasn't on The Flash in 2005, but there's that weird Smallville connection that I had with Tom Welling as well. In terms of doing its job, it did that. I'm actually kind of floored that there isn't a sequel to this film given that these movies apparently must clean up enough to copy another formula.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.