CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN (2022)
Release Date: 03/18/22
THE "IMDB" PREMISE:
"The raucous exploits of a blended family of 12, the Bakers, as they navigate a hectic home life while simultaneously managing their family business."
OUR MOVIE REVIEW:
Growing up in the early 2000s, the Steve Martin led Cheaper By The Dozen, and its severely underrated sequel, were on a constant loop in our house. Having also rewatched the first film recently, it still holds a special, nostalgic place in my heart as a heartwarming and hilarious gem. But now, in true Disney fashion, an updated retelling of the beloved tale has been created for a modern audience (and to also fill the digital real estate of the streaming world).
Streaming now on Disney+, Cheaper by the Dozen tells the story of the raucous exploits of the Baker family. Zoey (Gabrielle Union) and Paul (Zach Braff) marry each other after a love-at-first-sight encounter at Paul’s diner. The starry-eyed love soon becomes a tale of life-turned-upside-down as both have come from previous marriages in which they already have had children. Uniting the two families, Zoey and Paul then go on to have two sets of twins, bringing their child count to 9. With their respective ex-partners still apart of their lives, for the sake of the children, a curveball is throw at the Baker’s when Paul’s newly-invented “sauce for every food” finally gets funded and sends him on a nation-wide tour, leaving Zoey with the kids… and her ex, football star Dom.
The strongest element of this film is the fantastic ability to display an incredibly diverse family unit, while being functionally dysfunctional. The seamless bonding of kids from different cultures, ethnicities and backgrounds provides a fascinating look at these diverse cultures, but in an authentic way that strengthens the story. Each child in the Baker family gets their moment to shine with an array of immature hijinks occurring throughout, usually adorably smiling their way out of trouble. There is that noticeable level of ‘child acting’ with some of the cast, but in most cases it’s generally forgivable and doesn’t detract from the film overall.
Gabrielle Union and Zach Braff have great chemistry together, often bouncing one-liners off of each other (or their witty children). However when it comes to the more emotionally deep scenes, both actors seem to hold back slightly in regards to dramatic performances, falling more so into a flat, less emotionally invested third act. This comes across more as a problem with its surface level script, rather than the performances themselves.
Cheaper by the Dozen isn’t afraid to touch on more mature themes, but to its detriment, they don’t feel as fleshed out as they should be. Early in the film, as the Baker family is being introduced during a montage voiced-over by Zoey and Paul, it’s revealed that they became the caregiver to their godson Haresh due to his family being killed in a drink-driving accident. It’s a shock to hear initially, especially in the opening five-minutes of a family film, but it’s hard not to respect the filmmakers decision to open this topic for discussion. Unfortunately, this is rarely touched on again in the film, which is disappointing because it could have led to an honest discussion about how children can deal with grief or acceptance. Haresh’s storyline is still one of the film’s more heavy themes explored, as he deals with racism and bullying at school, but his introduction does feel like a missed opportunity to also dive into other important themes.
Directed by Gail Lerner, who has a career predominantly based in television, has created a look that fits the Disney aesthetic. Visually, it feels like the Disney Channel Original movies of the early 2000s. It’s a colour filled, flat lens vibe that feels like it was shot on a studio set. And while that’s not necessarily a negative for the type of film it’s trying to be, it also doesn’t add any excitement to the viewing experience.
If you’re a fan of the early 2000s Cheaper by the Dozen, you won’t find anything new or reinvigorating about this new remake. As fun as some moments can be, and even when it dares to deep dive on some important thematic elements, it holds itself back and falls flat. However, it deserves to be praised for its ability to naturally and seamlessly incorporate diversity without it feeling forced or shoe-horned in for the sake of it.