'Cheaper by the Dozen' review: Disney tale gets mixed race makeover

Zach Braff and Gabrielle Union lead latest version of the big family tale.

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

Disney's latest take on "Cheaper by the Dozen" — there was also a 2003 version starring Steve Martin, which was a remake of the 1950 original — puts a mixed-race spin on the tale of a family bursting at the seams. 

While no one is going to confuse it with a hard-hitting discussion on race, the film's creative team — which includes "Black-ish" writers Kenya Barris and Jenifer Rice-Genzuk, as well as "Black-ish" and "Mixed-ish" director Gail Lerner — does manage to sprinkle in some lessons about the complexities of racial identity among the soft-peddled messages about family, understanding and togetherness.  

Kylie Rogers, Gabrielle Union, Sebastian Cote and Zach Braff in "Cheaper by the Dozen."

Zach Braff and Gabrielle Union play Paul and Zoey Baker, a couple whose combined family includes nine kids, including their two sets of twins, an adoptee and two kids each from their previous marriages. That makes 11 in all; the dozenth is either Paul's free-spirited ex-wife Kate (Erika Christensen), who often acts as a loopy live-in babysitter, or Seth (Luke Prael), Paul's sister's kid, who comes to live with the Bakers when his mom goes off to rehab, a story point that is mentioned once but not dwelled upon. 

Please support our work. Find the latest subscription deals and offers here.

Paul is a chef at a breakfast spot where Zoey and several of the kids work, and he's the proprietor of a zip sauce that is alternately hot, sweet and savory. His sauce takes off thanks to a pair of investors (twins and "Sweet Valley High" grads Brittany and Cynthia Daniel), and the payday allows the Bakers to upgrade from Echo Park to Calabasas. But what do they lose along the way? And how good is this sauce that their tax bracket is allowed to immediately expand tenfold? 

"Cheaper by the Dozen" is as brightly colored and sitcom-glossy as you'd expect, and coated with a Disney sheen that makes everything glisten as though it's been kissed by the sun. But underneath that high buff there's just enough discussion of real life issues to prompt a conversation afterward. Perhaps that's this "Cheaper by the Dozen's" secret sauce.



'Cheaper by the Dozen'


Rated PG: for thematic elements, suggestive material, and language

Running time: 107 minutes

On Disney+