Holiday movies are meant to be fun, filled with good cheer, some family time, and… a narrating dog? Following in the footsteps of other holiday-themed ensemble films like Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve, and Love Actually, comes a movie akin to 2005’s The Family Stone, only worse, if you can imagine that. This holiday season, director Jessie Nelson and writer Steven Rogers want you to Love the Coopers. Instead, you will more than likely walk away from this film hating every last character for various reasons.
Charlotte (Diane Keaton) and Sam (John Goodman) have been married for 40-something years and they’re on the verge of a divorce, but Charlotte is intent on making her family’s last Christmas one full of happy memories and not angsty ones. Charlotte and Sam’s son, Hank (Ed Helms), has already gone through his own divorce, has been laid off from work, and can’t keep his daughter from cursing at everyone she sees. The older couple’s daughter, Eleanor (Olivia Wilde), is always anxious about disappointing her parents, is seeing a married man, but strikes up a conversation with a stranger named Joe (Jake Lacy), who turns her opinions on everything around.
Then there’s Charlotte’s younger sister, Emma (Marisa Tomei), who lives in the shadow of her sister and steals a brooch from the mall to prove… something or other, but is arrested by Officer Williams (Anthony Mackie), a man with his own issues and is psychoanalyzed by Emma. Finally there’s Bucky (Alan Arkin), the patriarch of the family, who’s smitten with the local waitress (Amanda Seyfried) and for some unknown and bizarre reason no one finds this least bit creepy. At least there’s Aunt Fishy (June Squibb), whose dementia-induced ramblings are supposed to be funny, but aren’t.
Somehow, all these story lines are supposed to come together in the end and the entire family will put aside their emotional baggage and be merry for Christmas. Because that’s what families do. Love the Coopers isn’t even in the same vicinity of even being considered average. None of the stories come together, there isn’t a single scene in the film that could your insides gooey with festive cheer and sentimentality. Every member of the family talks to each other in increments of anger and incomplete conversations while being busy filling the audience in on their lives with dull exposition. Every attempt at a strong female in this film is shot to hell in the end when they all acquiesce with how the man said something to change their mind. Never mind that they are actually making some valid points here and there. Oh well, it’s Christmas.
The fact that the entire film is narrated by the family’s dog (voiced by Steve Martin) is meant to be cute, surely, but it’s a disservice to the audience that the dog has to tell us exactly what every character is feeling at every point because the writing couldn’t muster up enough energy to make any of them very tolerable or semi-coherent. Love the Coopers is a disastrous holiday film, filled with false cheer and contrived drama meant to bring everyone together, but will only drive you away. There is no joy or love to be found with the Cooper family and there are much better ways to spend your precious time than on this film.