Cheaper By The Dozen (2022)

Starring: Gabrielle Union, Zach Braff, Erika Christensen, and Timon Kyle Durrett.

Directed By: Gail Lerner

Where I Watched It: Disney Plus

English Audio Description Available?: Yes

Narration By: Nigel Mojica

Description provided By: Descriptive Video Works

The Plot: The Bakers this time have taken their name literally, and they now run a Breakfast restaurant where dad (Braff) is the Breakfast King, and mom (Union) is supporting with her marketing degree. And that “dozen” includes animals, so there are less kids in this version. Among many other changes.

What Works: First, i love Gabrielle Union in this. After Home Sweet Home Alone, I was concerned that this would be outright dogshit, but this really isn’t that bad. It’s a total reinvention of everything about this series, actually making it closer to a Yours Mine and ours than anything else. The Bakers are a blended family, so both mom and dad have kids from a previous relationship, and then they have their own biracial kids. Then, later in the film, they take in a cousin. Plus, Braff’s ex-wife (Christensen) is around all the time, and later Union’s ex-husband also spends a lot of time at the house.

The film does well with balancing a lot of different ideas, from the blended family experience, to moving to a wealthier neighborhood, and dealing with ex-spouses. They tackle things the previous versions didn’t, like having a blended family, a bi-racial family, a cousin who needs to crash because his mom is in rehab, and racism. Yes, race is very much a part of this film, it’s not just there for show.

There are multiple scenes that will resonate, from Union not letting her sons play with toy guns outside of the house, to her encounter with a rent-a-cop that immediately tells her this is a quiet neighborhood, and another mother who believes she’s a nanny, and then that her kids are adopted. They didn’t just try and make another unnecessary adaptation or remake because they could, they reinvented it and gave it a whole new life. in some ways, it’s more grown up. In other ways, the film made some trade offs that didn’t quite payoff.

What Doesn’t Work: We lost some kids, and those that are there have far less personality than the last bunch. Sure, a few have actual character, but most of that is relegated to one thing we know about them. The last remake was also trying to launch the careers of Hilary Duff, Tom Welling, and piper Perabo, so it spent a lot of time on those already established names, giving them plenty of screen time and character development.

Here, I couldn’t really even tell you who all the kids are, or what purpose they served. Deja is the strongest character, but her counterpart Ella, who appears to be the oldest of the white kids, is given next to nothing to do by comparison. When the cousin is introduced, he’s a bit of a mystery for a reason, and somehow still feels more developed than some of the actual kids like Harley, that barely contribute to the film.

In general, I think the film made choices. Some worked well for a straight to Plus remake, others just made me miss the kids from the last remake. However, it’s all pointless, because there will be no sequel. This film chooses to end with that “where are they now” ending that shows what each kid went on to do, making a sequel very challenging.

The Blind Perspective: Not helping the lack of child development was the constant hands off approach to helping us navigate who is present in a scene. This is one of those narrations that drops in, and lets the scene play out sometimes for way too long, without an update. I’d like to be able to say that i mastered tracking all these kids voices I’ve never heard before, and knew which kid was speaking when, but that would be a lie. The narration needed to help with that, but it remained, for the most part, chaos.

Final Thoughts: I would still rather watch the last remake as i enjoyed those kids better, but I also didn’t hate this. It brings a lot of original ideas to this franchise, and changes it up, mostly for the good, but not always. But Gabrielle union really scores here. Even more so than Braff.

Final Grade: B-

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