Review by Dan Skip Allen
Zach Braff as Paul Baker, Gabrielle Union as Zoey Baker, Sebastian Cote as Bronx, Leo Abelo Perry as Luca, Mykal-Michelle Harris as Luna, Christian Cote as Bailey, Andre Robinson as DJ, Aryan Simhadri as Haresh, and Caylee Blosenski as Harley in 20th Century Studios' CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Merrick Morton. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.
This film isn't the first version of Cheaper by the Dozen released out into the world. It's actually the third film with this title — the first came out in 1950, and the second one came out in 2003 and starred Steve Martin, spawning a sequel in 2005 as well. This new version is going directly to Disney+. It's a bit different from the other versions.
Paul Baker (Zach Braff) is a father with a dream who dreamed of being a family man until things didn't work out with his first wife. Zoe Baker (Gabrielle Union) is a mother and ex-wife of an NBA basketball player until he was too busy for her, so she went her own way. She and Paul met and joined families, and before you know it, there are a dozen of them living together in one house and running a family business together.
The film deals with a lot of subjects involving family situations. With this many kids, it's hard to focus their time on all of them. Some of them are in high school and middle school. And there are toddlers as well. Each child has their own issues and dreams, but so do the parents. New possibilities involving the restaurant stretch the family dynamic thin.
This franchise has its head in the right direction, but the fact that there are so many characters in the film makes it hard to write a script that can make all of this make sense. Topics of bullying, female independence, and bringing in a cousin who has a background of making trouble are just a few of the issues that the film deals with. That being said, the script is fine.
Sebastian Cote as Bronx, Andre Robinson as DJ, Luke Prael as Seth, Aryan Simhadri as Haresh, Gabrielle Union as Zoey Baker, Zach Braff as Paul Baker, Journee Brown as Deja, Kylie Rogers as Ella, Caylee Blosenski as Harley, Mykal-Michelle Harris as Luna, and Christian Cote as Bailey in 20th Century Studios' CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Merrick Morton. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.
The direction is also very good considering all that is going on in the film. This story has always been a feel-good story, and the director, Gail Lerner, knows how to balance everything going on. It's not easy with such a big cast. This isn't the perfect film with this perfectly imperfect family, but it's very good.
The cast is littered with so many young people who are new to me, but they all fit in nicely with this family dynamic. Despite everything going on with the various storylines, all these young actors get their moments to shine. None of them gets outshined by the others. The parental actors get their moments to shine as well. This film is a true ensemble piece.
Disney has a formula, and they like to stick with it. Their films have a very family-oriented vibe to them and tell stories people can get behind. This film falls back on tropes Disney has set in place decades ago but works for what they are trying to do: tell a good, wholesome family-focused story. That's what they are good at. Even though this is the fourth film in the franchise, it's still working to a charm.
Cheaper by the Dozen streams on Disney+ beginning March 18.