Cheaper by the Dozen Review

Story posted March 29, 2022 in Arts & Entertainment by Rachel Newnam.

“Cheaper by the Dozen” is a family comedy produced by Walt Disney Pictures and released to Disney+ on Mar. 18. The film is based on the 1950 and 2003 films of the same name, as well as the 2005 sequel, “Cheaper by the Dozen 2.”

Directed by Gail Lerner, the project stars Zach Braff and Gabrielle Union as Paul and Zoey Baker, the parents of a blended family. The film covers the topics of racial discrimination, white privilege and acceptance of those who are different.

The movie starts with the introduction of each character. Paul Baker is a chef who owns and manages a diner in Los Angeles. Paul married his first wife, Kate, at a young age and they quickly had two daughters, Ella and Harley.

The couple later adopted their godson Haresh, who is Indian, when their friends passed away in a car accident. Kate and Paul grow apart and divorce amicably, saying that they are “closing that chapter of their lives and starting new ones.”

Zoey Baker was formerly married to professional football player Dom Clayton, whom she had two children with, Deja and DJ.

Zoey divorces Dom after seeing him become so wrapped up in his celebrity lifestyle that he forgets about the importance of being at home with his family.

Eventually, Paul and Zoey meet, get married and have two sets of twins together, leading them to raise nine children of different races. The family resides happily in the Los Angeles suburbs and runs Paul’s diner together

As the plot unfolds, Paul receives an offer to expand his restaurant and market his signature sauce to grocery stores nationally.

As he begins to make more money, Paul moves the family from Los Angeles to Calabasas, where they live in a gated community with a pool and a bedroom for each family member.

While the change seems glamorous, the family begins to feel judgment over their blended family coming from neighbors.

It does not help that Paul’s sister checks into rehab shortly after the Bakers’ move to Calabasas and the Bakers must take in Paul’s nephew Seth, who is prone to theft.

Zoey is left to manage the family alone as Paul’s business grows and he is out of town more often than he is with their family. Along with the effects of racial profiling and prejudice towards the Bakers, Zoey is left feeling overwhelmed and hurt by Paul’s absence.

While this may seem like a standard and somewhat interesting plot, it feels like the writers were more focused on the social issues that the film addresses than on the actual plot.

It is certainly important for people of all races, genders and abilities to be fairly and equally represented in today’s media, but this film made it feel like the movie was not actually about a family as much as it was about portraying minorities and their inequality in film.

Despite feeling forced, the film does a good job of getting the message across that just because someone may look different, it does not mean that they do not have the same interests, abilities, or even struggles.

The movie also does an excellent job of breaking down white privilege and the importance of acknowledging when one can not understand the struggles that someone else is going through.

For example, Dom explains to Paul in one scene that although Paul loves all his children and step-children equally, he will never personally understand what it is like to be a black man or woman in modern society, and can therefore not adequately prepare them for what their life will be like as they grow up.

Although somewhat corny, “Cheaper by the Dozen” does a good job when addressing important social issues within the plot. The film does not, however, have many other redeeming qualities. It is difficult to understand whether the ultimate message of the film is about the importance of family, discrimination within America, or being kind to others no matter what.

The acting also feels very elementary and the casting seems forced. While Zach Braff is supposed to play the endearingly goofy dad, he comes across as awkward and some scenes are almost too embarrassing to watch as an adult.

Additionally, although it is supposed to be something of a comedy, most jokes would only land with a young audience. While college students are certainly not the target audience of the film, the writing makes it difficult to enjoy the film unless you are a young child.

On the other hand, the original “Cheaper by the Dozen” movies, while targeted towards young kids, have jokes and innuendos that make them enjoyable for an audience of all ages.

Overall, “Cheaper by the Dozen'' is certainly a great movie for young children who are still being taught life lessons. “Treat others the way you want to be treated” and “don’t judge a book by its cover” are two clichés that would fit perfectly into the plot of this movie.

If nothing else, “Cheaper by the Dozen” was a cute film that would be excellent to show to elementary schoolers during a lesson about kindness, and it will likely play a part in the normalization of blended families.

Unfortunately, the film was not one of Disney’s better productions and it is doubtful that it will become a “childhood favorite” like most Disney pictures.

Rating: 2/5 stars

Rachel Newnam is a first-year majoring in journalism. To contact her, email ren5102@psu.edu

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