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'Yours' is an amiable diversion

''Yours, Mine & Ours" is the movie equivalent of a box of generic macaroni and cheese: bland, easily digested, comforting, forgettable. You can feed the whole family on it, and your kids will shrug and thank you and move on. There are worse things than functional cinema.

Directed by Raja Gosnell -- it's a step up from the ''Scooby-Doo" movies -- the film's ostensibly a remake of the 1968 Henry Fonda-Lucille Ball comedy of the same name, which itself was pleasant but no great shakes. Really, though, the new ''Yours" aims for the sweet spot hit by 2003's ''Cheaper by the Dozen," with similarly harried parents surrounded by a whirling maelstrom of cheery, messy kids.

The gimmick here is that the family is mix-and-match, the product of a second marriage between Frank Beardsley (Dennis Quaid) and Helen North (Rene Russo). He's a Coast Guard admiral and widower who has relocated to his home town of New London, Conn., with eight children in tow. She's his old high school sweetheart, also widowed and with 10 kids, natural and adopted -- plus dogs, cats, rodents, and a large pot-bellied pig that gets more close-ups than anyone else in the film.

Frank's a ramrod, Helen's an earth mother, yet the chemistry's there, and for a while Quaid and Russo give off a lovely middle-age heat. Then the plot kicks in.

His kids call him ''Admiral" and run their lives by bosun's whistle; hers are slovenly and creative. The two clans despise each other and plot to break up their parents' blissful union. This may cause a cynical observer to wonder if it's possible for a couple to divorce their own children.

It all ends rosily, of course, and on the way there are slapstick paint fights, cute sight gags -- the kids make a big enough mob to get their own school bus -- and a hint of romantic rivalry between Frank's oldest daughter (Katija Pevec) and Helen's (Danielle Panabaker). As Frank's commanding officer, Rip Torn cruises through on the way to better movies, while diminutive Oscar-winner Linda Hunt (''The Year of Living Dangerously") plays the family housekeeper. She sits back in one scene and pours herself a massive martini, which is probably the most sensible approach to the situation.

Quaid and Russo are pros, and they're immensely likable, even when navigating the trite dialogue of the breakup scenes. Anyway, your children won't care about the old fogies, since the younger cast is made up of faces they know from the WB and Nickelodeon: Drake Bell and Miranda Cosgrove from ''Drake & Josh," Miki Ishikawa of ''Zoey 101," Dean Collins from ''Jack and Bobby." Movies, too: Panabaker was in ''Sky High," Pevec and Sean Faris in ''Sleepover." These are the stars my kids recognized. No wonder Quaid looks a little depressed.

Throw in a picture-postcard lighthouse for a family home and that photogenic pig, and you've got an acceptable happy meal, no more, no less. Its taste should have just faded by the time ''Cheaper by the Dozen 2" arrives in theaters for Christmas.

Ty Burr can be reached at

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