Cheaper by the Dozen is a 2003 American comedy film about a family with 12 children (seven boys and five girls). The film takes its title from the 1948 biography of the same name of Frank Bunker Gilbreth and Lillian Moller Gilbreth and their 12 children, but other than the title and the concept of a family with 12 children, the film bears no resemblance to the book nor its movie adaption. The film was directed by Shawn Levy, who also helped produce the sequel Cheaper by the Dozen 2. It was released on Thursday, December 25, 2003 by 20th Century Fox.
Kate Baker (Bonnie Hunt) narrates a story about her large family: her husband Tom (Steve Martin) is a football coach at a small rural college, Kate is hoping to publish her book about parenting, and while Tom and Kate manage their twelve children, eleven of which live at home. When Tom unexpectedly receives an offer from his old friend, Shake McGuire (Richard Jenkins) to coach at a large university, the Bakers moved to despite the protests of their younger children. The family's second child, Charlie (Tom Welling), refuses to leave his girlfriend, Beth (Tiffany Dupont), and the others simply don't want to leave their friends and home. The atmosphere at the new house, which is absolutely huge, is tense, and the situation at school is even worse. The younger children are, in general, harassed at school. Charlie is taunted for being a "country boy", while the family's sixth and seventh children, Jake and Mark (Jacob Smith and Forrest Landis) are consistently antagonized by a bully named Quinn (Cody Linley), and Tina Shenk (Paula Marshall) is over-protective of her son, Dylan (Steven Anthony Lawrence) and doesn't want him to play with the younger kids. When Kate's book is ready to pick up for publication, she is required to do a national book tour to promote it. Tom thinks that he can handle everything in the family's household without Kate, so he decide to hire the family's oldest child, Nora (Piper Perabo) and her boyfriend Hank (Ashton Kutcher) to manage the younger children. The younger children detest Hank, and make him the target of their antagonistic pranks, prompting him to refuse to assist in baby-sitting. After Tom grounds the younger children for having fights at school, and not doing any chores around the house, chaos ensues at their next-door neighbor's birthday party, resulting in major property damage and the hospitalization of Dylan, enraging Tina. Kate is forced to cut short the book tour to take charge of the situation. Her publisher decides to create additional promotion for the book by inviting The Oprah Winfrey Show to tape a segment about the Bakers in their home. Despite much coaching from Kate, and Kate being furious at Tom for not telling her that he could not handle it, the Bakers are not able to demonstrate the loving, strongly bonded family that Kate described in her book. When Mark comes upset that his frog Beans has died Sarah tells him that nobody cares for his situation and a heated fight erupts before the segment starts, it is cancelled. As a result of the fight, Mark feels unwanted and runs away. Despite the efforts of the Bakers, their close friends, and the police, the family are unable to find Mark. However, Tom indulges a hunch that Mark is attempting to run back to the family's old home from the beginning of the film, and eventually finds Mark on a train departing from Chicago to Midland, Indiana. Reuniting with the rest of the family, they realize that they have not been a close family, and they begin to address their issues with each other. Ultimately, Tom resigns from his position at the university and settles for a less time-consuming job. The film ends with Kate's narration explaining that the Bakers are closer as a result of their experiences.