The all-new Disney+ movie Cheaper by the Dozen is a reimagined and completely new take on the 2003 family hit. Now streaming on Disney+, the film centers around the Bakers, a loving, blended family of 12 (consisting of one mom, one dad, nine kids, two dogs and one cousin — whew!) who came together through love, marriage, and unexpected circumstances. The movie follows their lives as they manage a family business and a loving but chaotic home, and the growing pains, joy, and humor that come with each.
Directed by Gail Lerner and produced by Kenya Barris, the film stars Gabrielle Union and Zach Braff who shine as parents Zoey and Paul Baker, and Erika Christensen and Timon Kyle Durrett play Kate and Dom, their still-involved co-parents and ex-spouses. When asked why they think this story has become ageless and withstood the test of time, the cast all agreed that it’s because of its focus on the true meaning of family. “Everyone in the world has a family,” noted Gabrielle Union, who also serves as executive producer on the film. “And more and more, you’re starting to see these blended families having to co-parent, or multigenerational families all living under one roof. Instead of what we’ve known as the traditional family, this is a movie that calls all families in and says you will find someone that you can relate to, that looks like you, that feels like your family, in this film.”
Joining the adults are a host of talented young actors: Journee Brown, Kylie Rogers, Andre Robinson, Caylee Blosenski, Aryan Simhadri, twins Christian and Sebastian Cote, Leo Abelo Perry, Myka Michelle Harris, and Luke Prael. “The children bring so much of their personalities to the movie,” Zach Braff remarked. “They’re so uniquely special and they all have their own sense of humor. I think Gail [Lerner] did a great job of bringing out their own personalities.”
When it comes to the roles of the exes, the cast all agreed it was something that needed to be explored and highlighted in the movie. Gabrielle shared, “There are some boundary challenges between the mothers, which I think is very common when there are two ‘Mrs. Bakers.’ It’s an ongoing challenge with co-parenting when someone has a sense of familiarity with your spouse, and that can create these fluid boundaries that we explore in the movie, but we made it fun.” Erika Christensen said, “I have so many friends that have this situation, where they’re making it work with multiple parents involved, and it makes me so happy and gives me so much hope to see that the kids are coming first and the parents do whatever it takes to make it work, and that’s clearly what’s happening with this film’s dynamic.” Timon Kyle Durrett agreed. “With Dom, he’s this larger-than-life character who has to humble himself and understand that he’s not the only man [involved],” he explained. “In a world where everyone thinks of themselves, it’s important to learn it’s not always about you. Dom is representative of that maturation, and also the humility that comes along with it.”
Another element that makes the film stand out from previous Cheaper by the Dozen adaptations was the addition of multiple races within the blended family unit. Director Lerner explained, “Kenya and I talk a lot about the importance of representation, and really showing the world how it is. To get a chance to show a family that looks like what America looks like now, it was just an exciting opportunity.” Braff said of the new adaptation, “I was so impressed with the writers’ ability to navigate so much in a family comedy, and do it so elegantly. How could you do a movie like this and not have Dom and I eventually have some sort of real conversation? So Disney actually went for it!” He added, “There’s also a disabled child in the movie, there’s also discussion of depression, and this is all incredibly woven into a Disney family comedy. And it works, and I was impressed and proud to be part of something that was going to be hilarious, but also be brave.” Christensen agreed: “It really makes room for everyone’s voice, which is just impressive with so many people involved.”
Even though the film was not afraid to highlight real-life challenges in modern families, the movie, with its abundance of comedic actors, is full of roaring comedy and heartwarming fun. Even some of the kids were brave enough to improvise the comedy — and those who weren’t had help from the adults. “Occasionally, I’d have a funny idea or joke for one of the kids, and we’d give them a line and the kids would deliver it perfectly,” Braff beamed. Lerner agreed: “Each person was committed to making everyone look good, so everyone ended up shining — which was great for the film.”
At the end of the day, the cast and production wanted to make a film that audiences could relate to and be encouraged by, and that would also persuade them to do more together as a family unit. Gail explained, “We wanted to show a family who goes swimming together, they play games together, they huddle up for family meetings, they have family movie nights… If people finish this movie and think ‘let’s all go hang out, let’s all have a meal together, let’s have fun,’ whatever it is — I’d love it if families walked away thinking, ‘let’s spend more time together.’”