If you've seen the trailers for Yours, Mine & Ours, you'd be forgiven for thinking that it's a cheap knockoff of the 2003 hit Cheaper by the Dozen, which was also about a family with far too many rambunctious kids. (To further complicate matters, Yours is a remake of a 1968 film of the same name, which was undoubtedly inspired by the success of the original 1950 version of Cheaper by the Dozen.) Like that Steve Martin comedy, the ads for Yours, Mine & Ours emphasize the assorted hijinks that the tykes inflict on their poor, unsuspecting parents, played here by Dennis Quaid and Rene Russo. While these tiresome bits of kid-friendly slapstick do make up roughly half of the 88-minute running time, what the trailers don't show you is the genuinely sweet love story at the movie's core. Make no mistake-Yours, Mine & Ours strictly adheres to the family-movie formula, but the result turns out to be a decent serving of comfort food rather than an inedible slice of mud pie.

Quaid and Russo star as Frank Beardsley and Helen North, high-school sweethearts who married and started families with other people. They meet again 30 years later and discover that they are both widowers with a sizable number of kids (he has eight, she has ten). Throwing caution to the wind, the two get hitched overnight and then break the news to their offspring, who naturally don't handle it very well. Undaunted, Frank and Helen move all 18 kids into a ramshackle lighthouse, along with their assorted pets and the Beardsleys' longtime nanny Mrs. Munion (Linda Hunt in a thankless role). It quickly becomes clear that Mom and Dad have vastly different parenting styles. An admiral in the U.S. Coast Guard, Frank prefers to run his home like one of his ships, whereas his new wife is more of a free spirit who thrives in an environment of slightly organized chaos. As their attempts to merge their respective clans into one big happy family keep backfiring, the kids take it upon themselves to bring the experiment to an end by splitting Frank and Helen up for good. But in the process of ruining their parents' lives, they discover that they may just be able to get along after all...

With its abundant storytelling clichés, dutifully staged pratfalls and boilerplate direction (courtesy of Scooby-Doo mastermind Raja Gosnell), Yours, Mine & Ours really shouldn't work. The secret to the film's modest success can be summed up in five words: Dennis Quaid and Rene Russo. Instead of halfheartedly slumming their way through a formula family picture, both actors are committed to making Helen and Frank's relationship feel real, from their first kiss to their first big argument. Whenever they are onscreen together, they exude a natural warmth and charm not suggested by the calculated script. Their romance is so convincing, it would have been interesting to have seen a more grown-up version of their story-one that actually addresses the characters' obvious political differences, for example (although it's already pretty clear who voted for who in the last election). Because the movie has been made for young kids, though, it can only go about ten minutes before one of the parents-usually Frank-trips, gets hit on the head or inadvertently swaps spit with the family pig. There are certainly better and more imaginative family films out there right now (most notably The Curse of the Were-Rabbit and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe), but Yours, Mine & Ours is a decent distraction.

-Ethan Alter