If ever there was a compelling argument for birth control, "Yours, Mine & Ours" is it.
The remake of the 1968 Lucille Ball-Henry Fonda comedy about a widower with eight kids who marries a widow with 10 of her own telegraphs its slapstick gags from a mile away - though they become so repetitive, you can predict them even before that. When you see Dennis Quaid slide across the floor in some sort of gooey substance before falling elaborately on his rear end, you know it won't be long before he does it again.
It's already a sitcommy premise - although amazingly based on a book about a real-life family - but director Raja Gosnell (of the "Scooby-Doo" movies, say no more) can't resist going for the easy and usually shrill physical prank every time.
Children in the audience, who won't read this review or any others, will laugh hysterically at the way the characters injure and humiliate themselves. Their parents will just be bored.
Quaid and Rene Russo look great together, though, and have an easy chemistry as an uptight Coast Guard admiral and a hippie-chick purse designer whose marriage merges their 18 kids. Both actors are far too subtle and substantial for the manner in which the material is presented, and you get the sense that they know it - and just don't care.
Quaid's Frank Beardsley reunites with Russo's Helen North 30 years after they were high-school sweethearts. They impetuously decide to get married without fully comprehending how intensely their two families will clash - or bothering to tell their families beforehand.
Frank has applied his military background to the way he raises his kids, turning them into the modern-day incarnations of the Von Trapp children - before Fraulein Maria came along. Helen's brood is an artistic mix that includes six adopted kids from various ethnic backgrounds, as well as assorted dogs, cats and a pig. She encourages them to express their feelings while sitting in a circle holding the "talking stick."
Of course, because their lives are so extremely opposite, the families can't stand each other when they're forced to share an enormous lighthouse along the Connecticut coast. The older kids are generically sassy in a TV-friendly way; the younger ones are just cloyingly cute.
But they learn to get along when the eldest Beardsley, William (Sean Faris), figures out that if they work together to break their parents up, they can go back to their old separate lives. Pratfalls, spilled paint and an unapproved house party (that's naturally devoid of teen drinking and sex) ensue - as do well-timed changes of heart.
Danielle Panabaker (from "Sky High") has a sort of earthy radiance about her as Helen's eldest child; Linda Hunt gets all the best lines as Frank's sharp-tongued, longtime housekeeper.
But the family audience "Yours, Mine & Ours" seeks will abandon it even before the extraordinarily similar "Cheaper By the Dozen" comes out in mid-December.
"Yours, Mine & Ours," a Paramount, MGM and Columbia Pictures release, is rated PG for some crude mild humor. Running time: 88 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.