Release Date: December 16th, 2005 by Twentieth Century Fox. The Cast: Claire Danes, Diane Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Dermot Mulroney, Craig T. Nelson, Sarah Jessica Parker, Luke Wilson, Tyrone Giordano, Brian J. White, Elizabeth Reaser, Paul Schneider.
Directed by Thomas Bezucha.
BASIC PREMISE: Everett Stone (Mulroney) invites his girlfriend Meredith (Parker) to stay with his family during Christmas.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: When Meredith arrives with Everett at his house, nobody warmly greets her. The members of the Stone family include Sybil (Keaton), the mother, Kelly (Nelson), the father, and their children: Amy (McAdams), Susannah (Reaser), Thad (Giordino) and Ben (Wilson). You can easily predict that she’s going to have awkward confrontations with each quirky member of the Stone family after that point. Diane Keaton gives a good performance as Sybil, who’s suffering from a terminal illness. Also quite affecting is Rachel McAdams, who makes for a very dislikable, mean sister. However, Dermot Mulroney looks uncomfortable and gives a stale performance.You’re probably wondering who will warm up to her first. Just to be safe, Meredith calls her sister Julie (Danes) to the rescue. The main problem with the script is the forced laughter simply doesn’t fit among all of the drama. Also, the poor editing and bad comic timing doesn’t help either. On top of that, the only likeable characters are the mother, the father and Ben—he’s also the funniest and the most charming. Unfortunately, Meredith comes across as boring, selfish, and rude, especially during a dinner scene where she “accidentally” offends Thad and Patrick (White, a gay interracial couple. The way everything becomes neatly tied in the third act feels too rushed and contrived. Ultimately, Writer/director Thomas Bezucha fails to slow down so that you can get to know any of the characters well enough to actually care about them.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: The only recurring theme is acceptance and tolerance of others no matter how different they are. That includes tolerance of race, sexual preference, and those with stubborn, uptight personalities. You probably will get a little misty-eyed when Sybil’s terminal illness is subtly referenced. Unfortunately, despite the predictably happy ending, you will leave feeling stone cold.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: By-the-numbers plot, stilted/contrived script, and one-dimensional characters.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 2
THE BOTTOM LINE: A poorly written, unsurprising holiday movie that fails to be funny, moving, or memorable.
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: TV
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