Entertainment

Movie review: ‘Love the Coopers’ — not!

What It’s About

The Cooper family tries too hard to become a warmer, fuzzier Griswolds in “Love the Coopers,” but the holiday comedy feels forced, sprinkled with an overload of sugar and not enough spice.

High-strung Mom Charlotte (Diane Keaton) wants a perfect Christmas before she and husband Sam (John Goodman) reveal they are going their separate ways. Their grown kids have secrets too — nice guy Hank (Ed Helms) was laid off and wild child Eleanor (Olivia Wilde) pretends to have a boyfriend (Jake Lacy) so people won’t judge her over the holidays.

Mix in lonely grandpa Bucky (Alan Arkin), senile Aunt Fishy (June Squibb), bitter sister/aunt (Marisa Tomei), conflicted waitress (Amanda Seyfried), an annoying ex-wife, hormonal teens, sassy little kids, and stern police officer (Anthony Mackie). Oh, let’s not forget the rascally but lovable family dog.

The home, decor and feast are Martha Stewart-worthy, but on cue, unconvincing chaos threatens to wreak havoc on the picture-perfect family holiday vision as the snow falls in Pittsburgh.

That elusive greeting card mythical Christmas — is it ever real or just an unattainable dream? Countless movie scripts have tackled the subject, with various degrees of success. This one fails the fresh test.

Occasionally, there are snippets of real truths, some earned laughs, and a few gags don’t seem lame, but then it veers into National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation antics, appearing derivative and tired. This is not a holiday card come to life — it’s a shuffle on your iTunes of cover songs.

Performances

While I did not love all the Coopers, I liked some of them better than others. Ed Helms (“The Office”) is just likeable in yet another lovable loser role. Poor Oscar nominee June Squibb (“Nebraska”) — the comical actress is forced to play a stereotypical loopy senior citizen with dementia, and it’s insulting.

Old pros Goodman (“Rosanne”) and Keaton (“The Family Stone”) are good separately, but they are playing less colorful versions of roles they’ve taken on before.

Olivia Wilde (“Rush”) is an unpleasant, self-centered young woman who needs to get over herself. And Oscar winner Marisa Tomei (“My Cousin Vinny”) is wasted as a neurotic woman perpetually mad at her sister, with a plethora of issues that just muck up the plot, as is Oscar nominee Anthony Mackie (“The Hurt Locker”) as a pent-up cop.

What Works

Steve Martin’s narration is a nice touch. The exchanges between Oscar winner Alan Arkin as retired professor Bucky and and Amanda Seyfried as restless waitress Ruby in the diner actually have engaging conversations.

What Doesn’t Work

In their attempt to make one of those insipid ensemble comedies like “Valentine’s Day,” director Jessie Nelson (“I Am Sam”) and screenwriter Steven Rogers (“P.S. I Love You”) have used artificial flavors instead of real ingredients that don’t make this contrived confection stand out above the fray.

This is sadly a waste of time and talent. When you need a little Christmas, don’t reach for this cliched retread.

Stars: Two

Director: Jessie Nelson

Starring: Diane Keaton, John Goodman, Ed Helms, Olivia Wilde, Alan Arkin, Amanda Seyfried, Anthony Mackie, Marisa Tomei, Jake Lacy, June Squibb

Rated: PG-13 for thematic elements, language and some sexuality

Length: 2:00

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