Basically: A remake of a beloved movie with a more modern mixed family take that balances comedy and depth well.
Let’s get this out of the way: If you’re mad Disney remade the 2003 version of the movie with Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt, Hilary Duff, and Tom Welling, then let me tell you that one was a remake as well. Now, let’s talk about this new movie. Cheaper by the Dozen is a good concept, and I was excited to hear Disney was doing a remake with Gabrielle Union and Zach Braff. Changing the story from a couple with a gang of children to more of a Brady Bunch concept feels like the right move. Both Union and Braff are excellent here because they are veteran performers in the comedy TV and movie space; they can work off each other like they’ve been a duo for years.
Braff and Union play Paul and Zoey Baker, respectively. They own and run a diner that serves all-day breakfast. They also have the classic amount of 12 children. Paul and Zoey each have a few kids from their previous marriages and they have four more together. They also take in Paul’s nephew Seth (Luke Prael). The family is rounded out by Kate (Erika Christensen), Paul’s ex-wife who helps watch the younger kids, and Dom (Timon Kyle Durrett), Zoey’s ex-husband who’s a famous NFL football player.
The main plot follows Paul whose confidence is shaken by some financial troubles with the diner, especially when he has to watch his wife’s ex Dom give everyone expensive gifts. So Paul pushes headlong into achieving his dream to become famous like Chef Boyardee with his fantastic sauce that can go on anything. He moves the family from their modest house to one in Calabasas.
The kids with story arcs are Deja (Journee Brown), who wants to play D1 basketball at USC, DJ (Andre Robinson), who doesn’t relate to his father Dom as much as Paul, Haresh (Aryan Simhadri), who has racist bullies at his new school in Calabasas, and Seth, the nephew who has had a hard upbringing with his mom. Cheaper By the Dozen navigates all these stories well alongside the plot of the family moving to a more affluent neighborhood.
The film also navigates the nature of Paul and Zoey being a mixed-race couple with Black kids, white kids, mixed kids, and a Brown kid. Zoey doesn’t have the best experience in their new neighborhood because of her race. She won’t let her young twin sons play with the laser tag guns. There are some excellent conversations between the characters about racism, and they listen to each other. It is refreshing to see.
Cheaper by the Dozen is delightful. It’s an overall solid, excellent family movie. The chemistry between the leads and the children is so good. The film has the comfort of a family sitcom that’s been on for a few seasons. Everyone knows what to do and is comfortable together.
Also—and this is one last little thing for me—it was good to see Brittany and Cynthia Daniel on a project together. The sisters play Melanie and Michele, food business investors who get into business with Paul and they catch the vapors. I haven’t seen them act together since the Sweet Valley High syndicated teen sitcom in the 90s. That’s cool to see.
In the End: Cheaper by the Dozen is a wonderful remake that works well. It updates the classic concept to make a new and fun family movie that plenty should enjoy.