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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Putting a twist on ‘Cheaper by the Dozen’

The poster for the Disney+ film "Cheaper by the Dozen" (2022) is pictured.

In the year 2022, viewing audiences are intimately familiar with reboots, sequels and spinoffs of dearly loved TV shows and movies. By March of this year alone, Hulu released “How I Met Your Father” (2022–), Peacock released “Bel-Air” (2022–) and Disney+ has released “The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder” (2022–) and “Cheaper by the Dozen” (2022). 

All reboots and remakes aim to put a new spin and perspective on the original, but “Cheaper by the Dozen” chooses to do this by telling the story through a new lens — one of a mixed and blended family.

The original 1950 film was first remade as “Cheaper by the Dozen” (2003) and its sequel “Cheaper by the Dozen 2” (2005) before this 2022 adaption, but what is significant is how similar the newer adaption feels to another very popular film, “Yours, Mine and Ours” (1968), that also got a 2005 reboot.

The basic plot of “Cheaper by the Dozen” is an all-American family with a lot of kids — 12 to be exact — and all the chaos that comes with them. The plot of “Yours, Mine and Ours” is similar, except this one focuses on two large families coming together to form an even larger one. The newest 2022 addition to this big family film trope takes inspiration from both plots to begin its story.

In this film, Paul and Zoey Bakerfall in love after ending their marriages with their former partners. When the two unite, their family of seven starts with the children from their previous marriages. Shortly after, the two add to their family as Zoey gets pregnant with two sets of twins. At the real start of this film, the family consists of 11 members, with Paul’s silly ex-wife hanging out and helping around.

When Paul and Zoey’s family-owned breakfast spot and new sauce begin to go big, the Bakers move up in socioeconomic class and into a newer, wealthier neighborhood. They end up also taking in Paul’s nephew, Seth, when his mother is no longer able to take care of him, and their family of eleven turns into a ‘Baker’s dozen.’

What is truly significant about this new adaptation is that it remains a story of a large, love-filled, all-American family while bringing in the messiness that comes with it. Both Paul and Zoey’s ex-partners are present throughout the film, attempting to keep connections with the kids and each other. One child was adopted by Paul and his ex as an infant. Another child is taken in by the family when he needs a home. Most significantly, Zoey and her ex-husband are Black.

The story adds more complexity, representation and realism to it with this single switch — half of the main cast are Black or mixed. The film makes an effort to represent what a blended family looks like in both big and small ways.

The youngest four of the family, two sets of twins, are all mixed with coils and curly hair, and throughout the film, they and their two older Black siblings are seen with traditional Black American hair — everything from box braids to cornrows. In almost every nighttime or waking up scene, Zoey can be seen with a simple silk hair wrap that Black women sleep in to protect their hair.

The film consistently tackles the question of what makes a family and, specifically, what makes someone one’s child. As Zoey’s ex, Dom, argues, Deja and DJ are his children because they are his blood. Meanwhile, Paul argues that they are still part of the Baker family because he’s “boots on the ground” with them every day and helps to raise them. Both points are valid because blood is important but is not the only thing that makes a family. Deja and DJmay not call Paul “dad,” but he is still a father figure in their lives.

As conflict rises in the plot and the family needs reassurance that they are family, there is an important scene between Paul and Dom as Dom brings up that Paul will not understand what Deja and DJ need because, simply put, he’s nota Black father.Paul may raise Black kids, have Black kids and be married to a Black wife, but as a white man, he will not understand what is like for his kids in the world and the fear that comes with being a Black person in the world.

Paul acknowledges this and acknowledges that he loves his entire family and will do what he can when he can.

Maybe film producers need to be done with reboots and sequels at this point, but this “Cheaper by the Dozen” reboot did a good job at expanding a well-known story to allow it to be a form of representation to more people and families.

Summary The “Cheaper by the Dozen” reboot was a refreshing take on the oft-remade big family comedy movie style.
4 Stars