Based on the 2003 Steve Martin film, which was based on the 1950 Myrna Loy movie, which was based on the autobiographical book of the same name, the new version, now on Disney+, stars Gabrielle Union and Zach Braff as Zoe and Paul Baker, parents of a large, adorable Brady Bunch style blended family of 10 kids and two dogs, Joe Bitin’ and Bark Obama. “As hectic as our life can get,” says Paul, “it always seems just right.”
In addition to raising the kids, Paul and Zoe run an all-day breakfast restaurant but are running slightly behind on the rent. Their hopes for the future are pinned on Paul’s new invention, Paul’s Hot, Sweet and Savory Sauce. If they can make a go of it, and realize his dream of being bigger (and richer) than Chef Boyardee, they can finally get square with the landlord, put together school tuition and get a bigger house so the kids won’t have to share rooms anymore.
But they soon discover that a big family is one thing, but in business, bigger isn’t always better.
“Cheaper by the Dozen” is formulaic and sweet enough to give you a toothache but has just enough edge in its storytelling to give it, well, an edge over the earlier, even more saccharine versions.
It’s a good-natured story about the importance of family that tap dances around issues of racism, privilege—”A few times in your life you felt like you didn’t belong,” Zoe says to Paul. “I feel like that all the time.”—and teenage rebellion. Ultimately, however, whatever problems they have will be solved by a love and a goofy-yet-heartfelt speech from Paul. It is the kind of movie about an “perfectly imperfect family” that you know will end with a pop song and smiles.
Braff, Union and the army of precocious kids are likeable, if a little bland. Your tolerance of “Cheaper by the Dozen” will be directly linked to your appreciation of movies that can only be described wholesome.