The Family Stone

Bomb Rating: 

This movie is trying so hard to be an instant classic it reminds one of that pesky in-law who's trying to make the perfect fruitcake. He's so committed to getting every last detail correct that he's forgotten that almost nobody likes fruitcake in the first place. The lesson: Always go with chocolate.Fruitcake sucks.

In the case of director Thomas Bezucha's "The Family Stone", it's like he's trying to get the rhythm and character of the family holiday film just right. Unfortunately, he ends up skipping off into the kind of melodrama that's more appropriate to Mexican soap operas.

The basic conflict in the film is that Everett Stone (Dermot Mulroney) brings home a woman, Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker), and nobody in his family likes her. The family is all laid-back and happy-go-lucky, and if Meredith's butt cheeks were squeezed together any more tightly, diamonds would shoot out of her ass. And although she tries, nothing she does makes her any friends. Everett's sister, Amy (Rachel McAdams) hates her. Everett's mother, Sybil (Diane Keaton), grows to dislike her, and even Everett's father, Kelly (Craig T. Nelson), basically thinks the two are a mismatch. Only Everett's brother, Ben (Luke Wilson) finds her interesting. Meredith's distress leads her to call her sister and invite her to the Stone's for comfort.

The only purpose of Meredith's call to her sister, Julie (Claire Danes), is to provide the story with an easy place to go, and what ultimately happens makes it impossible to have any respect for the film or its characters. From the first second Everett sees Julie, he's in love. When she walks off the bus, you'd swear somebody pressed an ice cube to Dermot Mulroney's scrotum. His eyes bulge out. He stares. He drools. This basically brings all of Everett's judgments with women into question. How fast did he take a shine to Meredith? Obviously, this guy is all façade and no substance, so his mother's concern about Meredith turns out to be right. Furthermore, what kind of slime starts hitting on his fiancé's sister? And what kind of movie ultimately makes it all okay?

While this is going on, Ben figures out how to get Meredith to loosen up with the most brilliant plan ever: He gets her drunk. We're supposed to believe that Ben sees through Meredith and realizes that if he could only pump her full of alcohol, the real Meredith would emerge. Of course, she does. Again, it's in service to the film's needs, not because the characters would actually fall for such things.

And to top everything off, director Thomas Bezucha does my favorite thing to garner sympathy: He gives Sybil cancer. In this way, everyone can rally, cry, and ultimately learn the lessons of a life well-lived. It's pure manipulation and Sybil is predictably one of those cancer patients who seems to feel no pain and always has time for others and never stops smiling. The main reason she has cancer is so that the director can teach a lesson because he's too stupid to teach that lesson without giving a character cancer.

Does anybody read scripts anymore? This one wouldn't have gotten a passing grade in a beginning writing class.

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sinks like a stone

Capiche's picture

I may not be a film school graduate, but I always believed one of the fundamental ingredients of a good yarn, whether a book or film, is to have at least one character that the audience cares about, empathises with.  But try as I might, I couldn't find a redeeming feature in any of the characters of this film, and there were numerous to choose from.  I don't know if this guy was trying to create an instant classic, but he obviously was trying to appeal to the same audience that would get into, say, Woody Allen flicks, most of which I love.  While it's a mystery to me as to how he managed to excite the interest of such a respected cast - the kind you WOULD expect to find in a Woody Allen film - that cast is the only reason I tuned in when it was on TV the other night. I sincerely wished I had not.  And I'm sorry, Sarah Jessica, you ARE Carrie Bradshaw now, and unfortunately you will never be anyone else.  Do not bother trying, because nobody is convinced. 

The film's flaws are too numerous to mention.  But I cannot imagine what kind of message it was trying to convey to humanity.  They ALL behaved appallingly, and yet they ultimately did not suffer for it.  Cranky's right - unlikely characters thrown into unlikelier situations just to steer the story in whatever direction the writer wanted - I mean, this is undergraduate stuff.  Just to pluck one example of many - why would the Danes character just happen to be available to travel miles away at Christmas at the drop of a hat?  For something that was hardly an emergency.  And if we're to believe she's such a bloody saint (remember, her saintliness is partly why he falls for her), why would she stoop that low, stealing her sister's fiance for God's sake, from right under her nose, and then with some dweeb with a personality bypass who wears a tie and suit to an informal in-house family gathering?  I'm desperate and dateless, but even I would reject this pond slime if I met him. Mind you, Clare Danes fell for Ben Lee in real life, so I guess anything's possible...

And ultimately, what was this?  Slapstick comedy?  Melodrama?  It succeeded at neither.  Every scene made me cringe.  People tuning in to a cast like this expect a degree of cleverness, but they would've been disappointed.  All films like this prove that Noo York no longer can claim to produce more highbrow, worthy films than Hollywood does.  It is a complete bomb.

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