The sequel to the original "Cheaper By the Dozen," “Belles On Their Toes” is a more bittersweet comedy/drama, with flashback core of film spanning the flapper years, as Myrna Loy struggles to assert her status as a female engineer, while family members grow older, and find new loves.
It's a rather curious hybrid of the melodramatic “Father Knows Best” template, wherein the key plot points involve fresh-faced locals banding together to raise money for personal and municipal causes, while the story is peppered with obvious nods to the Twenties. Mixed between the family struggle episodes are some odd musical numbers in the film's first half, gleaming with a kind of nostalgia - perhaps directed at older moviegoers for the film's original release period.
The most interesting aspects remain the cast, with Loy, Jeanne Crain, Barbara Bates (Anne Baxter's usurping understudy, at the end of “All About Eve”) and Jimmy Hunt (“Invaders From Mars”) reprising their roles from “Cheaper By The Dozen.” Added to the family is Fox starlet Debra Paget (pretty much stealing scenes with her evanescence and quirky dance sequence), and Crain's suitor, Jefrrey Hunter. Unbilled are future linguistics whiz Robert Easton, and Martin Milner (“Adam-12”) as a fast-talking brat, with eyes for Bates.
20th Century Fox's transfer is made from an okay Technicolor print, though the colour registration (mainly the red hues) is a bit off in spots, particularly in the graduation scenes that bookend the film. Both mono and pseudo-stereo mixes have limited dynamic range, affecting some music cues with minor distortion.
Veteran fluff director Henry Levin maintains a buoyant pace, and the screenplay (by the parents of sisters Nora and Delia Ephron) offers some very witty lines.
© 2004 Mark R. Hasan
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