The Family Stone
Director: Thomas Bezucha
Writer: Thomas Bezucha
Producer: Michael London
Starring: Sarah Jessica Parker, Dermot Mulroney, Rachel McAdams, Diane Keaton, Craig T. Nelson, Claire Danes, Luke Wilson
MPAA Rating:PG-13
read my spoiler disclaimer

     Sarah Jessica Parker has never been at the top of my favorites list and probably never will be. I have a personal grudge against Diane Keaton, I could care less about Dermot Mulroney, and Claire Danes is hardly even in the film even though she's first cast. The only character I really liked was that of Ben; played by Luke Wilson. Still, the hour and a half "comedy" did give me some enjoyment and I'm happy I saw it, but would recommend waiting for the rental on this one. It does take place during Christmas, so seeing it now (in December) does help it's emotional impact a little, but if that's what you're worried about, then rent it next year.

      Meredith Morton (Parker) is on her way with her boyfriend to his family's home for a Christmas get together. This is the first time she will meet them and it makes her uncomfortable. The family also loves to mess with outsiders and give them a hard time. They go overboard quite a little bit and Meredith begins to feel threatened. The youngest sibling (McAdams) goes especially out of her way to make Meredith feel bad and the family goes right along with it. Disaster after disaster occur and the whole weekend is ruined; at least on the surface. Couple all of this with some deep internal family issues, an unorthodox relationship and the fact that Meredith is a strict, well-mannered, stuffy conservative type thrust in to this very liberal household and it gets messier than a Hawaiian cruise with The Fockers.

      Although there are a few delightful scenes with heart and quirkiness, there is nothing terribly funny that happens...ever. I laughed twice, and both were for Luke Wilson lines. So the description of a comedy fits I guess, but it's more of a dramatic dark comedy that takes place at Christmas time. Don't expect to be in stitches like when viewing "Meet the Parents." Most of this film is a huge downer and predictable as hell.

      My main problem right away was how unbelievable this family behaves and acts. I don't mean necessarily towards Meredith, but just in general. For instance I don't know anyone who walks down to the high school football field on Christmas eve morning with their dad to get stoned. These are not bumpkins either. They are upper-middle class folks who seem to be good natured, educated and smart. There is just more openess and a literal sense of touchy-feely that I'm just never seen within any family. It's actually nice in a lot of ways to be almost able to actually see the love in the air, (especially when it will matter later in the story when it attemtps to exhude liquid from your eyes) but it is just not realistic.

      Then the story teller tries to cram too much sub plot and story line into an hour and a half. If there was an extra 30 minutes it might've worked, but there wasn't. If there was though, I'd probably be complaining that the film was too long. They could've just removed some of the unnecessary sub plots.

      I love Luke Wilson and he gives me a good feeling no matter what role he is portraying. I appreciated the fact that he was in this film otherwise I may've hated it. However, after all the extra crap, the people I don't really care for and the unbelievableness to all of it, I did find redemption by the end. There is enough heart and fun that it kept my interest and the underlying message of tolerance and family love by the end was refreshing. But it just had to take us through a Christmas hell to get there.

Official site - full cast and crew and production notes.