Love the Coopers

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Director: Jessie Nelson

Screenplay: Steven Rogers

Cast: Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Ed Helms, Diane Keaton, Anthony Mackie, Amanda Seyfried, June Squibb, Marisa Tomei, Olivia Wilde, Alex Borstein, Jake Lacy, Steve Martin (voice)

Running Length: 107 minutes

Synopsis: Love the Coopers follows the Cooper clan as four generations of extended family come together for their annual Christmas Eve celebration. As the evening unfolds, a series of unexpected visitors and unlikely events turn the night upside down, leading them all toward a surprising rediscovery of family bonds and the spirit of the holiday.

Review: It seems almost like there is one such movie every year – a family reunion dramedy during the festive season – but Love the Coopers is a wholly unremarkable addition to this sub-genre that works only on the most superficial level. And despite the title of the movie, there is very little reason to love the Coopers (or the movie).

One of the biggest problems with Love the Coopers is that the screenplay simply isn’t up to par. The characters are shallowly fleshed out, and most of them remain two-dimensional despite being played by a group of rather talented actors. Most of them are not given much to do, as there are obviously too many characters with too many plot lines that cannot be satisfactorily resolved in the film’s under-two-hour running time. It doesn’t help that some of these subplots are rather confusing (none more so than the interactions between Arkin’s Bucky and Seyfried’s Ruby, which seemed to suggest one thing but ended up being something else altogether).

There are also problems with the believability of some of the characters themselves – Anthony Mackie’s police officer Williams inexplicably opens up to Marisa Tomei’s Emma in a car ride, but I found myself hard-pressed to believe that a man that is apparently super-repressed would reveal his sexual orientation and troubled childhood to a near-complete stranger. Many of the inter-character conflicts either feel like a non-event or come across as being completely artificial, which further detracts from the cinematic experience.

That the whole film culminates in a hospital scene that shamelessly tries to tug at the heartstrings is perhaps to be expected, but given such a low emotional investment in the characters, the denouement rings as hollow as the rest of the film. Love the Coopers is watchable solely because of the collective charisma of the ensemble cast (even the voice of the family dog, who plays narrator, is voiced by Steve Martin), and even then barely passes muster.

Rating: * ½ (out of four stars)

 

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