News and Analysis

Gabrielle Union Stars In Disney’s Woke ‘Cheaper By The Dozen’ Disaster
Gabrielle Union
Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic via Getty Images

It seems like there’s no more original thought in Hollywood these days and worst of all, everyone making sequels seems intent on injecting woke messaging into timeless classics. Case in point: the newest Disney remake of “Cheaper By the Dozen,” which even the mainstream critics admit is pointless, charmless, and chock full of not-so-subtle social justice talking points.

The original 1950 version of “Cheaper By the Dozen” was a heartwarming family comedy based on a book by the same name. It was written by two brothers telling the true account of their lives growing up in a family of twelve children.

The movie was already remade once in 2003 starring Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt as the parents. That version received mixed reviews, but even that wasn’t enough to stop Gabrielle Union from giving “Cheaper By the Dozen” another shot in 2022.

The movie has the main characters Zoey (Union) and Paul Baker (Zach Braff) each with two children from previous marriages. They marry and have two sets of twins, adopt a child, and take in Paul’s nephew when his sister goes to rehab. This leaves the family with ten children, not twelve, which makes the title utterly pointless.

It’s significant that the new version features a blended family rather than one woman who birthed twelve children with one man.  One of the best moments in the original “Cheaper by the Dozen” happens when the parents introduce a representative from Planned Parenthood to their brood. In the new movie, none of that pro-family messaging exists.

Instead, the family has two dogs named Bark Obama and Joe Biten. One of the white women Zoey meets in her new, more upscale suburban neighborhood doesn’t feel comfortable around black people. Filmmakers use her character to mock conservatives who move to Idaho to get away from liberal politicians.

Zoey’s ex-husband Dom complains to Paul about “systemic racism,” saying even though he’s a famous basketball star, he still frequently gets pulled over by police. “You’ll never understand what I go through,” he tells Paul. gave the film 1.5 stars, saying, “The movie awkwardly mixes corny humor, synthetic sentiment, and pointed, if superficial, depictions of overt and subtle racism. Responding to racist micro-aggressions is unfortunately most of what Union is given to do, though she is, as always, graceful and gorgeous, here in a series of excellent hairdos.”

The reviewer also said the movie is “worse than formulaic; it is lazy and condescending to its audience.”

There were critics who agreed with the remake’s messaging but thought Union and crew didn’t pull it off too well.

Elizabeth Weitzman of The Wrap wrote “Just like the product placement, the many frank discussions of privilege, race, and racism are laid atop the movie rather than woven into it. The comic setups are as old as the original source material. Frenetic pacing substitutes for entertainment.”

The Guardian also described the latest “Cheaper By the Dozen” as a flop, writing, “Its tone wavers even more haphazardly from kids flick to marriage portrait to slapstick comedy to stark commentary on race, without nailing any particularly well and despite endearing commitment from its performers.”

Meanwhile, lead actress Union used the red carpet premiere as an opportunity to express her anger with Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill, HB 1557. 

Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter about the remake, Union said, “We’re blended racially, culturally, with a variety of different abilities. We’ve got co-parenting. We show you the joys of all of this, some of the challenges and we do it in an age-appropriate, family-friendly way but we don’t shy away from anything.”

The outspoken activist actress is an executive producer of the film.

“I’m incredibly proud of this, especially right now, because we actually say gay,” she continued. 

“I don’t want to say shock because hatred doesn’t shock me at this point. I’ve been a black woman in America since ’72. Nothing shocks me, but the fear that gripped me because I know what this leads to,” she continued. “Every moment in history, there has been this moment. We know how this ends. We know where hate and oppression lead. And it can start now with the LGBTQIA community, but if you think that it’s just a them problem, oh baby, you’re next.”

Union didn’t call out Disney by name but implied they weren’t doing enough to stand against the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill. She and husband Dwayne Wade have a child who identifies as transgender. 

“If you’re going to take a stand and be all about diversity and inclusion — and it’s not just about black boxes after George Floyd died — you need to actually put your money where your mouth is,” she said. 

“You can’t stand against hate and oppression and fund hate and oppression. That doesn’t work. Obviously, our family has a big spotlight. My child is one child. There are countless children who deserve peace and the ability to survive and thrive in this world, just like everybody else. And if you think that your kid isn’t next, you are so sadly mistaken.”

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