LONDON: When you consider that Disney’s latest family-friendly caper is a remake of a remake of an adaptation, there’s a surprisingly fresh feel about this multi-generational comedy. In the 2022 version of “Cheaper by the Dozen,” Zach Braff and Gabrielle Union play Paul and Zoe Baker, owners of a breakfast restaurant and heads of a gargantuan, interracial family whose lives, as you may have guessed, verge on the chaotic. When Paul’s career takes off, the family moves to a fancy new neighborhood, the kids enroll in swanky new schools and each tier of the Baker clan must adjust to their new surroundings.
Updating the movie’s premise to better reflect the diversity of modern society is definitely a welcome step, but sadly for viewers, that’s about all “Cheaper by the Dozen” does with any kind of confidence. Directed by Gail Lerner from a script by fellow “Black-ish” writers/producers Kenya Barris and Jennifer Rice-Genzuk Henry, the movie can’t settle on a tone — lurching from slapstick comedy to social commentary and back again with unsettling frequency. Credit is due for a willingness to discuss race in what is essentially a kids’ movie, and for doing so in such a frank, honest way — but cracking jokes one minute and launching into stark monologues the next makes for a discombobulating experience.
Braff and Union make for a charismatic on-screen couple, and their cinematic family is portrayed by an ensemble of likable young actors. In fact, many of the movie’s funniest lines are given to the younger members of the Baker family. Somewhat inevitably, most of the kids get only a few minutes of screen time, so they struggle to define any real sense of character. For this movie, much like the family as a whole, there’s simply too much going on to focus on any one thing. But, much like its immediate predecessor (released in 2003 and starring Steve Martin), there’s a sense of harmless geniality about “Cheaper by the Dozen” that makes it the kind of movie you’d sit your kids in front of — no matter how many of them you have.
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