"Cheaper by the Dozen" stars Gabrielle Union, Zach Braff, Ericka Christensen, Timon Kyle Durrett, Brittany Daniel, Cynthia Daniel, and Ron Funches. Released on Disney+ on March 18, 2022, the film has two parents managing a family business while taking care of their ten children.
The film featured the directorial debut of Gail Lerner, who's known for producing television shows like "Will & Grace", "Ugly Betty", and "Black-ish". It is based on the 1948 novel by Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey. It's no easy task to take care of a child, let alone two or three. On the other hand, raising ten kids is a whole different level. Good luck trying to pay for life insurance with that amount of children running loose. Disney is at it again with another revival of a 20th Century Fox property that holds a place in my heart. This time, it's a family comedy that expands the "family" in more ways than one, although this version is about two kids short of a dozen. This isn't the first time we've seen "Cheaper by the Dozen" being brought to the screen. It was previously made in 1950 by director Walter Lang and Clifton Webb and then again in 2003, which starred Steve Martin and was helmed by Shawn Levy. This latest reimagining looks to take the source material in a new direction while maintaining the chaotic nature of raising multiple kids. I was pretty curious about this one, mainly because I have fond memories of the 2003 adaptation. However, I was also cautious about it, given Disney's unfortunate track record in reviving Fox's famous franchises, especially "Home Alone" and "Ice Age". Despite that, I'm still willing to give the studio another chance at delivering something worthy enough to stand alongside Fox's previous installments. It can't be any worse than the movies I mentioned, right? Let's dive into the chaos and find out.
The story centers on Zoey (Union) and Paul Baker (Braff) raising their kids following their divorces. They eventually met in Paul's restaurant and got married, resulting in them raising ten children together. While attempting to survive the chaos of their trouble-making kids, Zoey and Paul try to maintain the success of their breakfast-themed restaurant. Their series of misadventures will lead the parents to learn what it means to be a part of a family.
The 2022 remake includes some changes to make it more relatable for the current generation than the previous adaptations. The most prominent example is that the writers made the Bakers into a biracial family consisting of children of earlier marriages and an adopted child. I have nothing but appreciation for this approach because it inspires young children who are also part of a blended family and the parents who've gone through the struggle themselves. In addition, it teaches viewers about the importance of family regardless of who they are or where they come from. But, of course, it shouldn't be the only reason this movie exists, as it also has to rely on the execution to make the remake watchable. "Home Sweet Home Alone" attempted to do this familiar strategy but wound up being a complete embarrassment that's surprisingly worse than the franchise's direct-to-television sequels. So there were plenty of things for this film to accomplish to stand alongside the novel's previous adaptations and avoid the same mistakes from the other Disney reimaginings of Fox properties.
The plot in the 2022 remake has a few similar elements that we've seen in the 2003 version. The most notable ones are the Bakers moving into a larger house and one of the parents staying behind to watch the kids while the other goes on a business trip. While it does have some differences to keep itself separate from Steve Martin's misadventures with the larger family, it's pretty easy to get a sense of deja vu from watching it. The movie also attempts to provide a more dramatic approach to its concept amid the chaotic and comical nature of raising ten kids. It isn't without a few mishaps, but it also didn't shy away from representing racial bias from the perspective of a biracial family. It's a welcoming approach for people who are on this path themselves and viewers to develop some interesting conversations. I should know because I am part of a biracial family.
Unfortunately, even with its thoughtful direction, the remake fell short of being a chaotically fun dozen. The story not only took noticeable cues from the 2003 movie, but it also lacked the enthusiasm and wackiness that made that version special for me. It managed to keep the heart intact, though, which I had no problem with, but the experience of going through the sitcom-like motions felt pretty bland, unlike Paul's breakfast items. Gail Lerner handles the drama of the film's themes nicely while keeping things family-friendly, but her direction in providing comedy still needs work. The cast was also suitable in their roles, including Gabrielle Union and Zach Braff as Zoey and Paul, respectively. While not the best part of the movie, Braff still delivered enough chuckle-worthy moments to keep me somehow entertained. I would even say the same thing about Union, who's always a joy to watch. On the other hand, Erika Christensen struggled to follow suit regarding her role as Kate and her stale humor. As for the actors who portray the Baker kids, I thought they did all right. They're nothing too spectacular, but like the main leads, they have their moments.
Overall, "Cheaper by the Dozen" means well in its modern representation, but the mishaps in raising a large family are few and far between. It's another Disneyfied remake that doesn't quite deliver the same quality as Fox's counterpart. However, I would say that it's more tolerable than "Home Sweet Home Alone", mainly due to its themes and heartfelt moments. Unfortunately, its bland storytelling and subpar comedy kept the movie from reaching beyond those heights. If you have fond memories of the previous adaptations of "Cheaper by the Dozen", this latest iteration is worth watching for its representation alone. It's not a must-see, but it is worth giving a chance regardless of its flaws.