Last week, Jay and Sean got to see The Night Before, Seth Rogen’s tale of Christmas debauchery. That I wound up seeing the latest holiday offering from the producer of The Family Stone instead wasn’t- as you might think- because I drew the short straw at the Assholes Christmas party. My family is just REALLY into Christmas.
For me, it’s not Christmas until I’ve tried every Starbucks Christmas drink on the menu at least once, wept to the end of It’s a Wonderful Life, helped my colleague understand her granddaughter’s Christmas list, and shared the Swiss Chalet festive meal with my parents. Because my visit home last week happened to coincide with our first snowfall, it seemed the perfect time to scratch the Festive Meal (chicken leg, cramberry sauce, stuffing, and french fries) off the list. After supper, which was well worth the wait, tradition dictates that it’s time for a Christmas movie.
The Coopers have clearly not had their festive meal yet because their Christmas is getting off to a Bah Humbuggy start. We meet Elanor (Olivia Wilde) in an airport bar on Christmas Eve where she is stalling and trying to gather up enough nerve to face her family’s Christmas. Her brother Hank (Ed Helms) can’t bring himself to tell his family that he has been out of work for a month. Sam and Charlotte (John Goodman and Diane Keaton), their parents, are getting a divorce but are putting off breaking the news until after Christmas. Charlotte’s sister Emma (Marisa Tomei) has just been arrested by a closeted gay cop (Anthony Mackie) for shoplifting. Meanwhile, Charlotte and Emma’s father (Alan Arkin)’s world has come crashing down when he learns that his favourite waitress (Amanda Seyfried) is moving away.
I didn’t enjoy this movie as much as I’d like to tell my parents that I did but didn’t hate it as much as I’d like to tell the internet that I did either. Featuring one Avenger, two former Dunder Mifflin employees, and three Oscar winners, it does its best to appeal to a modern audience. Sam frequently and unintentionally misquotes Joy to the World and Silent Night to make them sound dirty. Elanor meets and clashes with a Republican soldier (Jake Lacy) at a bar. There’s even a toddler with the adorable catchphrase “You’re such a dick!”. Coopers is still a holiday sap like me though with all the predictable family reconcilations and unlikely displays of Christmas spirit.
That we’ve seen it all before is not the only reason Love the Coopers feels insincere. The unusually talented cast phones it in, probably because they know they can afford to. Almost all of them have appeared in their share of good movies over the last couple of years and seem to be counting on the strength in numbers that come with a cast of so many recognizable faces. Wilde is a notable exception. Whether she is the only one on set who actually likes this script or is somehow better at hiding it than her more experienced co-stars, she plays her scenes with Lacy as if she’s sure these are the ones they’ll remember her for. I wouldn’t nominate her for any awards but her confidence does make her dynamic with the Republican soldier the most endearing in the film.
Overall, Love the Coopers earned some big laughs from the Silvercity crowd last week while working in some genuinely sad and tender moments but way too many jokes don’t connect (Mostly from trying too hard. Did I mention that Steve Martin is the narrator?) and mostly feels trite (mostly from not trying hard enough).
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