By Sherena Edwards, Second Year, English Literature
Disney’s latest release on their streaming platform Disney+ offers a sense of nostalgia and sentimentality in the form of a remake of the 2003 film Cheaper by the Dozen. Since the film is effectively a remake of a remake, it bears little resemblance to the original semi-autobiographical book on which it is based, providing, instead, important modernisations to both the family dynamic and the plot.
The film once again follows the Baker family, though this particular adaption provides some much-needed diversity in the portrayal of an interracial marriage and blended family. This introduction of the blended family provides perhaps a more realistic account of how the Bakers came to have 9 children and enables a new and interesting approach to the depiction of the large and chaotic central family.
A key theme that can be explored as a result of the introduction of the blended family is that of race. At many points throughout the film, the issue of white privilege is addressed, particularly with regards to Paul who, as a white man, does not experience the same bigotry that his wife Zoe faces.
These issues regarding race, alongside difficulties related to relocation and class, are also explored within the almost episodic storylines of the children. However, it is arguably within this episodic-type narrative that problems begin to arise, with the respective characters seeming to be unable to make much of an impact in the short time they have been allotted.
Thus, the result is a sense of certain characters’ storylines being almost entirely omitted in favour of others, and perhaps an overarching feeling that none of these storylines are fully explored and resolved by the end of the film.
Relating to this is the issue of the tonal inconsistency. The film seems at once confused as to the seriousness of its approach to the issues it explores and similarly confused as to the type of comedy it is attempting to employ.
This is an issue that seems intertwined with a sense of confusion regarding who the target audience is actually meant to be, with the corny and at times clownish humour suiting a young audience that will perhaps fail to understand the more serious elements of the film.
Inevitably, this results in the consistent use of quick fixes and comedy in response to any tension that arises, subsequently limiting the conversation around such topics in order to smooth things out and keep the film light and breezy.
Despite these issues, Cheaper by the Dozen maintains its status as a light-hearted and easy-going movie, with impressive performances from teen and adult actors alike. And though at times jarring in tone, it provides a generally palatable and progressive viewing experience.
Featured Image: Disney+
How do you feel about this modern-day adaptation?