A filmmaker of youthful vigor and a penchant for lightweight, family-friendly comedies, Shawn Levy made a comfortable transition into features following success on television with efforts for The Disney Channel and Nickelodeon. Following his graduation with honors from Yale University at the age of 20, he moved to Los Angeles and landed roles on such small-screen staples as thirtysomething and Beverly Hills 90210, in addition to features like Zombie Nightmare (1986) and The Kiss (1988). He also became interested in the behind-the-scenes aspects of filmmaking, and soon turned his attention to directing with studies at the University of Southern California, where he completed a master's degree. Levy's short film Broken Record also earned the Gold Plaque at the Chicago Film Festival, as well as accolades from the Director's Guild of America. His previous television experience later come in handy as the up-and-coming director took the helm for the popular Nickelodeon series The Secret World of Alex Mack, for which he was nominated for a DGA Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Children's Programs award in 1998 for the episode "Lies and Secrets."
In the years that followed, Levy built a strong working relationship with Nickelodeon and The Disney Channel thanks to such series as The Journey of Allen Strange and The Famous Jett Jackson (the highest-rated movie to that point for The Disney Channel). In 1997, the director made his feature debut with the little-seen comedy drama Just in Time, and in the years that followed, his career gained momentum thanks to such made-for-TV efforts as Jett Jackson: The Movie. He stepped into the big leagues in 2002 with the feature Big Fat Liar. Starring Malcolm in the Middle mischief-maker Frankie Muniz as a young schoolboy whose essay turns into a hit movie after falling into the hands of a sleazy Hollywood producer, Big Fat Liar earned healthy box-office returns. Soon thereafter, Levy returned to the small screen to direct episodes of Do Over and Birds of Prey for the WB network. The following year proved to be a busy one as well, and after directing the moderately successful Ashton Kutcher/Brittany Murphy comedy Just Married, Levy had another hit on his hands with the high-profile Hollywood remake Cheaper by the Dozen. In 2004, he stepped behind the camera alongside producer Ivan Reitman to direct The Pink Panther, a remake of the original Blake Edwards favorite with Cheaper by the Dozen patriarch Steve Martin in the role of the bumbling Inspector Clouseau.