How many more ways will we see the story of Cheaper by the Dozen told? At least one more way is for sure as Disney+ drops this new version to stream. How is this one any different? First off, the Baker family is a different type of family than the other versions of the story. This is a blended family full of step siblings, half siblings, adopted siblings, and a cousin thrown in. Since it is unlikely people will go and have 12 kids in one marriage today, we can story more aligned with The Brady Bunch. Two divorcees find love and build a breakfast restaurant together and have a family of ten children. The marriage also happens to be mixed marriage which results in mixed race children.
But why are all these changes so significant? The film tries to tackle a lot of culturally relevant themes. But unfortunately, it is just on the surface. This film never digs deep enough to make a significant commentary on any of these ideas. The Bakers get rich quick and move into a nice neighborhood. They then deal with implicit biases and racial tension. Gabrielle Union’s character becomes explicit every chance she gets with the themes (beating you over the head with them). Her husband (Zach Braff) must be completely oblivious and have every message spelled out for him. There are about half a dozen racial and economic commentaries in the film but none of them feel like they are done justice. What was the point then?
What about the actual story and characters? The narrative beats of a family getting rich and adjusting to this new lifestyle feels so tired and worn out. The father becomes business obsessed within one scene and with no signs of this which feels unearned. The kids start acting in completely different ways out of nowhere…also unearned. Everything feels artificially played out in an unconvincing way. This makes it hard to feel connected to the characters because so many of them quickly become unlikeable. There is just too much going on to spend enough time on them and the film is almost two-hours (which feels WAY too long). Nothing is surprising and the film never digs below the surface. The film feels like a half-hearted reboot for no reason (except for streaming numbers).
But what about the cast? Honestly, you feel bad for most of them because they get little to work with. Braff is charming as ever and gets a few nice character moments with his wife and kids. Union gets saddled too often with just spewing themes and messages for the audience. A few of the young cast members get a chance to shine including Journee Brown (the oldest and future basketball star who lashes out), Andre Robinson (the nerdy kid who wants his goth girl), Aryan Simhadri (the adopted child dealing with racist jerks at school), and all the twins (they are just too cute!).
Is Cheaper by the Dozen worth the two-hour streaming experience? For some…maybe. If you just take it on the surface, it is a cute enough movie. But if you look for a worthwhile sequel that warrants its existence, this will not fulfill that urge. The film looks like it could just be some random TV series with a few notable names. At least Braff is fun, right?