Cheaper by the Dozen

  • 09 Apr - 15 Apr, 2022
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

Cheaper by the Dozen, the family film is the remake of a remake – the 2022 version puts a new spin on the 2003 movie of the same name, which updated the 1950 movie based on the semi-autobiographical novel by siblings Frank Butler Gilbreth Jr and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey.

The 2022 version makes several welcome updates to the formula of large family hijinks, but shares the 2003 film’s flat humour. There are too many moving parts to find a consistent groove; its tone wavers even more haphazardly from kids flick to marriage portrait to slapstick comedy to stark commentary on race, without nailing any particularly well and despite endearing commitment from its performers.

The Disney+ version necessarily modernises what had always been a uniformly white family at the centre into a mixed group. In a cheesy but effectively succinct opening montage, Paul (Zach Braff) and Zoey Baker (Gabrielle Union), the interracial married co-runners of an all-day breakfast joint in Los Angeles, explain how their blended family came to be. Paul was married to the spacey, LA yoga girl Kate, with whom he had three kids. Zoey was married to NFL pro-bowler Dom, with whom she had two kids. Both marriages ended cheerily and Zoey and Paul fall in love at his diner. Two sets of twins later, the Bakers are up to nine kids. A foster situation – Paul’s sister goes to rehab, so the Bakers take in her troubled teenage son Seth (Luke Prael).

As with the 2003 film, the gist of Disney Plus’s remake is cheerful domestic chaos molded into light didacticism: the importance of the nuclear family (albeit a blended one, in this update) with reminders to not get blinded by financial success or the lure of growth. Paul decides to market his special sauce, and possibly franchise the restaurant, in order to help pay for a bigger home. The Bakers move from Echo Park, a middle-class neighbourhood in LA proper, to Calabasas. The new mansion, bougie neighbourhood and private school puts a strain on the family in obvious, predictable ways.

From an adult perspective, it seems unlikely that 2022’s Cheaper by the Dozen will engender the same loyalty as its predecessor, but who knows? Maybe in 2042, Gen Alpha parents will feel seen by Disney’s newest iteration of the Bakers.