Although occasionally overzealous in hard-selling its slapstick elements, “Yours, Mine & Ours” ultimately emerges as generally pleasant family-friendly fare. Remake of 1968 Henry Fonda-Lucille Ball starrer has a limited window of opportunity to strike B.O. gold before the Dec. 21 opening of rival extended-family romp “Cheaper by the Dozen 2.” But appealing lead perfs by Dennis Quaid and Rene Russo, and relative dearth of similarly squeaky-clean, non-animated pics, should help Paramount release perform at least passing well in the megaplex marketplace before embarking on a long homevid shelf life.
Updating the ’68 scenario credited to Melville Shavelson and Mort Lachman (and loosely based on real-life figures), scripters Ron Burch and David Kidd waste little time in establishing the recycled premise with multicultural embellishments. Widowed U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Frank Beardsley (Quaid) is a loving but strict taskmaster who uses military-style discipline to keep his eight children in line during their many cross-country relocations.
But widowed handbag-designer Helen North (Russo), who comes off as an unreconstructed hippie, takes a far more laissez-faire approach to raising her 10 kids (including a rainbow coalition of adopted Indian, Asian and African-American youngsters).
When they were teenagers, Helen and Frank enjoyed a short-lived romance. Thirty years later, opposites attract again at a high school reunion shortly after Frank moves back to his home base of New London, Conn. Indeed, they’re so attracted that they almost immediately join hands in an off-camera marriage — without informing their offspring beforehand.
Not surprisingly, when they announce the new bonding to their respective broods, the news is not greeted with unbridled enthusiasm.
Since money is never a pressing concern in this kind of sitcom fantasy, Frank and Helen purchase a spacious seaside fixer-upper (complete with its very own lighthouse) to contain their combined families. It’s much more difficult, however, for the couple to strike a balance between their wildly divergent child-rearing philosophies. And it’s practically impossible for the two sets of children to establish peaceful co-existence.
The only thing the children have in common is their shared dislike of the new domestic set-up. So, of course, they strike a wary truce to sabotage their parents’ chances for happily-ever-aftering.
To generate laughs, director Raja Gosnell (“Never Been Kissed,” “Big Momma’s House”) relies heavily on chaotic scenes of noisy squabbling punctuated with paint-tossing, water-hosing and destruction of property. (A pet pig looms altogether too prominently throughout the proceedings.)
Gosnell, however, does not have his actors play their characters as caricatures. Quaid never goes overboard as a Coast Guard lifer who’s determined to run a tight ship at home. And while she delivers some of the pic’s sappiest dialogue — “Homes are for free expression!” — Russo’s free-spiritedness never curdles into cloying excess. With little obvious effort, the two charismatic stars use their low-key charm to generate a rooting interest in keeping the couple (and their respective offspring) under the same roof.
(It’s worth noting that the original “Yours, Mine & Ours” used the mother’s unexpected pregnancy to keep the family united. The remake isn’t quite that shameless.)
Given the sheer size of the household, it’s hard for any of the many children to grab sufficient screentime to make memorable impressions. Even so, there’s stand-out work by Katija Pevec and Danielle Panabaker as stepsisters who take an instant dislike to each other, and Sean Faris as Frank’s unapologetically straight-arrow son. (Tim Matheson played the equivalent of the latter part in the ’68 version.)
Among the supporting cast grown-ups, Linda Hunt earns a couple of mild chuckles as a caustic housekeeper, but Rip Torn (as Frank’s commander) and Jerry O’Connell (as Helen’s business rep) are primarily window dressing.
Pic is for the most part a polished tech package. But it’s a tad too easy to spot less-than-seamless CGI work on the crashing waves and star-filled skies around the lighthouse.