• DERRICK DUNN

Thrid adaptation of Cheaper by the Dozen is routine but harmless


A third film adaptation of Frank Bunker Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey's 1948 novel Cheaper by the Dozen arrives from director Gail Lerner and dual writing team Kenya Barris and Jenifer Rice-Genzuk. Zach Braff and Gabrielle Union headline the film as Paul and Zoey Baker, the patriarch and matriarch of a blended family with nine kids! Paul won Zoey over with his homemade sauce that he describes as shifting between hot, sweet, and savory.


The Baker children include four kids from previous marriages, Paul and Zoey's two sets of twins, and an adoptee. The Bakers run a tight ship at home and work as they run a breakfast shop. When they aren't keeping things organized at home and work, Paul and Zoey maintain healthy arrangements with their exes, the free-spirited Kate (Erika Christensen) and ex-NFL champion Dom (Timon Kyle Durrett).


Kate acts as a babysitter for the younger kids, and anytime Dom gifts his kids with something, he includes the other Baker children. One day, Paul has a chance to take his sauce to the next level when he impresses twin investors (Brittany and Cynthia Daniels). The newfound wealth allows the Bakers to move from middle-class Echo Park to the more affluent Calabash. Naturally, the family learns the grass isn't always greener on the other side, which is the catalyst of your plot.


As a fan of Kenya Barris's writing style, I generally knew what to expect when I heard he was updating writer Craig Titley's version of Cheaper by the Dozen. In collaboration with Gail Lerner (who has directed episodes of Barris's hit series "Black-ish" and "Mixed-ish) and Jenifer Rice-Genzuk (a staff writer on "Black-ish"), the angle that Barris takes works in 2022.


Naturally, some will accuse the film of wokeness. However, that isn't the case here at all. There were never any jokes about unseasoned chicken, raisins in potato salad, or hot sauce. Instead, the script for Cheaper by the Dozen wants us to see the Bakers as a normal couple that just happen to have different ethnic backgrounds. In that regard, that doesn't mean all is peachy keen as Barris does drop a few gems in the film about the Black Experience in America.


Two of the moments involve Union's character, and while I won't spoil them, I will say I found both believable. Towards the end of the film, there is a great moment between Dom and Paul that, if this weren't a Disney movie, could have gone a lot further with its execution as it's a much-needed conversation.


For the most part, Cheaper by the Dozen works depending on how you take reboots or remakes. I can't recall ever seeing the 1950 version, and the 2003 Steve Martin was just harmless fun. The acting in the film isn't groundbreaking, and the movie for sure won't win any awards. However, as a one-time family watch with an open mind, I would give it a chance.


With the 2022 version, I won't say that it's the best of three. However, I did find myself identifying more with the relationship of Zach Braff and Gabrielle Union. Perhaps this is due to my spouse being white. Despite a routine plot and jokes that don't always land, Cheaper by the Dozen, in a nutshell, is an extended sitcom that you come to expect from Disney +. Thankfully, Zach Braff and Gabrielle Union's chemistry earn the film a one-time watch.


Final Grade: C+

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