The Family Stone
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.
To spread the word about this The Family Stone review on Twitter.To get instant updates of Mr. Cranky reviews, subscribe to our RSS feed.