The Masked Reviewer just sat down to begin
his review of this film when suddenly he realized just how clever the
title is! See, the family that this movie is about is named Stone.
They're the Stone Family. But, one of the major plot points
revolves around a family heirloom that is a diamond ring. That's
also the family stone! Get it? It's so clever!
Family would have been a better title though. Stoned Family
would have been a much better title, but a very different movie,
too. Although, that wouldn't necessarily have been a bad thing.
Here's the deal. *sigh*. There's this trend -- it's been
around for a while, but seems to be getting worse lately -- where
studios will take a finished film and put together the trailers,
previews, and ads. And the way they cut the trailers, it looks
like the movie is something that it's not.
This is a Bad Idea. It's great if the studio thinks they've got
a bomb and they want to trick as many people to go on opening day as
they can, but in the long term, they have to know that people are going
to tell their friends "this isn't what I expected!" Usually, when
you get something you didn't expect, it's more often a Bad Thing than a
Good Thing. People say "this isn't what I expected..." when they
get socks for their birthday instead of Knicks tickets. People say
"this isn't what I expected" when they bite into a chocolate that they
expect will be filled with creamy nougat and instead they get pureed
The Family Stone is being pushed as a funny holiday comedy.
The clips feature slapstick, laughing, chasing, joking, and goofiness.
The music is light and upbeat. So, it's a funny holiday comedy,
right? Yes! It is!
Oh wait, no, it isn't. The Masked Reviewer figured you were
probably expecting to hear that it wasn't, so the Masked Reviewer
thought he'd throw you, the reader, a little curveball. Pretty
upsetting, isn't it?
The Family Stone (formerly called The Family Jewels)
isn't much of a comedy at all. It's probably best classified as a
"dramedy", but better described as a wannabe touching family movie.
It talks to the heart, people! But what it says is "get me out of
here." Okay, it's not that bad. It does have some amusing
moments, and, if unlike the Masked Reviewer, you have a heart, you might
find some of the moments to be touching. But it swings back and
forth, and you're never sure how you should feel about things.
Diane Keaton plays the family matron. Craig T. Nelson plays the
family patron. A giant robot with a sword plays the family Voltron.
Ha! Just kidding. The family is rounded out by the kids,
including Dermot Mulroney, Luke Wilson, and Rachel McAdams. Demot
Mulroney brings his girlfriend, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, home for
the holidays to meet the family. The ads make this seem like
Meet the Parents, but it isn't. There's a lot of tension and
hostility and weirdness.
The family is portrayed as utopian at first...all love and perfection
and sunshine and lollipops. As things progress, we see their
less-than-pleasant side, but it's hard to know what the filmmakers want
you to feel. Are we supposed to like Sarah Jessica Parker, or hate
her? Is the mom the good guy or is the son the good guy? And
then, things get all confusing when...well...a lot of stuff happens that
Christmas Eve. The events seem totally implausible and random and
the resolution is not believable.
In a goofy comedy, you can forgive that, but when the film is held
together by the heavy heart-touching sob-stuff, it just seems random and
It's too bad. The performances are fine across the board.
Sure, Sarah Jessica Parker plays it up too much...she seemed to be
convinced she was in a screwball comedy and overplayed things. But
no one else was on the same page as her.
Tender moments seem wasted. Diane Keaton is interesting,
but...oh, it's all so convoluted. This movie wasn't ready to be
shown. It's not awful, it's just...not ready. What is it?
Nobody knows. One might almost think that someone started to make
a comedy, then someone else took over to make it a tear-jerker.
The end result is...a comi-jerker. And there's good reason why
you've never heard of such a thing.
Again, it's not the acting. And there are some funny parts.
But not only is this not a comedy, it's not anything. Any goodness
comes from the actors themselves, but it just goes to show you that
putting a bunch of actors on screen doesn't mean you instantly get a
great movie. You need writing and direction, and this movie lacks
direction. The director, Thomas Bezucha, also directed Big Eden,
which you probably haven't heard of (no offense, Mr. and Mrs. Bezucha).
There's probably a reason why you never heard of it, too.
The Masked Reviewer recommends that you might want to hold off on
seeing this right away. Some people will like it, especially fans
of the stars. But if you have hopes of finding an uproarious light
comedy, you've been misled. It will probably do big numbers on
opening weekend, because a lot of people are expecting something that
this film is not. Don't be fooled.
And by the way...Diane Keaton is believable as the mother of Luke
Wilson, Rachel McAdams, and the other girl...but as Dermot Mulroney's
mother? He looks older than she does! Sure, she's actually
17 years older than him, which is technically old enough to really be
his mother, but the family members aren't terribly convincing as a
family. And Sarah Jessica Parker looks like she could be the
family grandmother. Oh! That's cruel. Sarah Jessica
Parker fans, don't hate the Masked Reviewer! But you've got to
admit, she's getting a little long in the tooth to be playing the
young-and-perky types anymore.
Expectation from the Title: When Bob's Pet Rock goes on a
quest to find his birth-parents, he begins a journey that will take him
to the center of the Earth...and to the center of his soul.
Mother's Rule (Always Say Something Good About Everything):
Diane Keaton always looks fabulous.
The Pros: Charismatic cast that aren't bad...aren't bad at
all. A couple of good laughs.
The Cons: Biggest drawback...this is not what you expect.
It's not a comedy. It's not anything. Needs better direction
and editing. Unconvincing ending...nothing flows right in this