Directed by Adam Shankman, starring Steve Martin, Eugene Levy, Bonnie Hunt, Carmen Electra, Piper Perabo, Tom Welling and Hilary Duff.

Once one of the funniest men you could ever encounter in a cinema or video shop, Steve Martin coasted through the 1980s with one brilliant comedy after another: 'The Man With Two Brains', 'Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid', 'Planes, Trains & Automobiles', 'Dirty Rotten Scoundrels' and 'Parenthood'. Since the 1990s, however, Martin has chosen plenty of decidedly average or downright poor movies, with the likes of 'Bowfinger' and 'The Spanish Prisoner' tipping the scales back in his favour. Having scored a box office hit with 'Cheaper by the Dozen' in 2004 he's back for the sequel, but it's hard to sit still watching such a great talent wasted in so throwaway a movie.

Once again we catch up with the giant Baker clan - parents Tom and Kate (Martin and Hunt) soon to become grandparents and facing up to the fact that some of their children (Duff, Perabo, Welling) are moving away to start their own adult lives. With everything happening too fast, Tom proposes that the whole family spend one more holiday on Lake Winnetka. It seems like a great idea - until they arrive and discover that Jimmy Murtaugh (Levy), a rival of Tom's since childhood, is holidaying in the massive property across from them with his trophy wife Sarina (Electra) and big family. While the kids and wives on both sides are more than happy in each other's company, Tom's competitive streak goes haywire, pitting his children against Jimmy's in Lake Winnetka's annual sports competition and forgetting why he organised the trip in the first place.

This is one of those family films which brings people together because everyone will find something to complain about. For children there's not enough slapstick and the comedy is too random to be entertaining; for adults the feeling of being bludgeoned with a message gets more acute by the minute. Simply put, the script is desperate and fails to make full use of any of the talent onscreen. Actors of the calibre of Martin, Levy and Hunt could've ad-libbed a funnier film than this and you wonder why they were all willing to sign for something so substandard that does them no favours at all. As for Welling and Duff, they're just there for the teens, but they don't have a decent line between them - especially Duff who has such a mannequin role that leaving her out and calling the film 'Cheaper by the Dozen (minus 1) 2' would've made more sense.

You'll see better on the telly this Chirstmas every day at 3. AM that is.

Harry Guerin