I hate when a movie has potential to, well, not really be a classic, but at least one that I would probably sit down and watch when it comes on cable (lately I’m hooked on “The Santa Clause 2: The Mrs. Clause” and I’m embarrassed to admit that), and “The Family Stone” had that potential until it decided to put in an all-too-easy, sentimental, sub-plot, that the movie didn’t need, a sub-plot I don’t want to have to relive at Christmas-time. I’ll try not to reveal this sub-plot, nor the other obvious plot twist that is supposed to surprise you, but here we go…
Everett Stone (Dermot Mulroney) is in love with Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker), and of course it’s the time of the year, Christmas-time, when boy must bring girlfriend to meet his parents and family, and what a more awkward time to do it than at said Christmas-time, especially when your family is slightly dysfunctional, even though you probably don’t realize it. And it’s even worse when your dysfunctional family doesn’t really like your girlfriend, based on an earlier dinner when your sister, Amy (Rachel McAdams), met up with the two of you, and now they fear that you want to ask her to marry you. Such is the problem facing Everett and Meredith. Now, Meredith, is your atypical, big city, career driven kind of woman, perfectly clothed, with tight hair and stuck to her cell phone. Everett seems just kind of lost, yet still supposedly in love. Anyway, Meredith arrives and it’s pretty much Amy’s job to make her feel as lousy as she can, and Meredith is so miserable that she ends up staying at the local inn instead of at the Stone household, and calls her sister, Julie (Claire Danes), to help her save her reputation with the family. Julie arrives, there is a highly uncomfortable Christmas Eve dinner, and all of our cast of characters, also including Mom Stone (Diane Keaton), Dad Stone (Craig T. Nelson), Ben Stone (Luke Wilson), and Thad Stone (Ty Giordano), all have revelations that would change their lives through the next year.
Alright, that’s a pretty crappy synopsis of a movie that at it’s core is a fun look at a wacky family and a girlfriend who really doesn’t fit, although she really does, just not knowing it yet. There’s some seriousness (Mom doesn’t want to give son her Mom’s wedding ring, even though she promised she would if said son found the woman of his dreams), some odd-ballness (Ben is pretty great), some funny-ness (Meredith’s breakdown on Christmas morning gave me one of the biggest laughs I’ve had at a movie in a while), and the typical family-ness (in the end, it’s Christmas, a time for family, and a time for all to get along). But what I didn’t need, want, or want to have to see again, is the sub-plot, that although is a sub-plot everyone will have to go through at a Christmas (not exactly like this sub-plot, but the same concept) or Holiday, I don’t want an entertaining Christmas comedy with a nice hint of drama to make me have to relive every time I see it. I know that might not make sense if you don’t see the movie, but as I just re-read this review so far, nothing really makes sense.
Look, the movie is entertaining, and as much as I’ve been reading bashing of Sarah Jessica Parker’s portrayal of Meredith, I thought she did a pretty good job going from the hoity-toity New York City girl, to the girl who really has a sentimental side, to the girl who just needed some rubbing from Ben to let her freak-flag fly. Luke Wilson was fantastic as the stoner-type brother who always seems to be filled with stoner wits of clarity, and Diane Keaton was just fine as the overly protective mother, who didn’t need to be burdened with the extra story she had. I’ve always been in love with Claire Danes, so she can do no wrong in my eyes, and Rachel McAdams was utterly perfect, especially when she uttered the words “Of course you do,” and then walked away. All that said, dropping the totally sentimental, unnecessary sub-plot, I’d have given this movie 4 ½ stars out of 5. With that part in it, I’m dropping this rating to 2 ½ stars out of 5. It did have one of the biggest laughs I’ve had in a while, but for goodness sake, don’t make the tear-jerking so easy.
That’s it for this one! L8R!!