‘Tis the season of holiday movies! Every year, November and December are filled with films that fall into the family holiday comedy cliché. This year’s first film to exhibit these clichés is Love the Coopers. Packed with an A-list cast, a multi-plot story, corny jokes and a lack of a message, Love the Coopers is the cherry-on-top of the holiday film genre.
Based on the trailers and advertisements, the film actually seemed as though it could have been a winner in a genre so poorly executed. In fact, there was clear potential for comedy gold that would be good for the whole family to enjoy.
Unfortunately, like the other clichéd films of the holiday season, Love the Coopers is poorly written. When the film started with a wacky narration by Steve Martin, the stench of failure was definitely in the air. Sadly, the narration continued through the entire film as a bad segue between the four independent, yet dependent, storylines. However, the film did not need a narrator, but rather it needed appropriate transitions between scenes. Randomly cutting from story to story does not work unless both stories are interconnected and, in turn, the writing failed because the individual stories did not connect at the points of transition.
The other major issue with the writing is that four of the storylines were written atrociously and the fifth was written very well. The bad storylines are as follows: 1) the somewhat ordinary yet always extraordinary lives of the Cooper patriarch and matriarch, portrayed by John Goodman and Diane Keaton, respectively; 2) the crazy sister, played by Marissa Tomei, being arrested for stealing at the mall by Anthony Mackie; 3) a young diner waitress, played by Amanda Seyfried, seeking the expertise of her beloved daily customer played by Alan Arkin; and 4) a lesser story of the down-on-his-luck Cooper son portrayed by Ed Helms. Still, all of these stories had such terrible dialogue that the actors could not even deliver decent performances.
However, the fifth storyline somehow managed to be better by leaps and bounds. The Coopers’ daughter, portrayed by Olivia Wilde, is on her way to her parents’ house from the airport when she meets a deploying Army soldier, played by Jake Lacy. The film spends more time on this story than all the others, which may have been a factor to the story’s success. In addition, Lacy and Wilde have great on-screen chemistry, leading to a more comedic and lovable story. Overall, Wilde was the scene-stealer and gave the best performance out of the entire cast, as she brought her typical, quirky charm to a boring film that needed some sort of spark.
Aside from the writing and storylines, the film hit its stride about two-thirds of the way through, when all the stories converged into one. This allowed a nice, feel-good end to the film, which helped redeem the earlier, uglier qualities. Though the last third of the film is when the clichés hit the hardest, they can, of course, be overlooked. For instance, the most cliché part of any holiday film is when the entire family comes together for the holiday dinner. Love the Coopers uses this typical scene while adding its own spin. Having the Cooper family together let the comedy and drama fly high. It is a shame that the rest of the film did not follow suit.
In the end, Love the Coopers is a film that is a nice escape for any family that enjoys watching the holiday shambles of unstable, cinematic families unravel before their eyes. However, it is not worth spending money to see it in the theater unless you are really into the holiday movie genre. Otherwise, you can definitely wait for the DVD to come out, watch it on Netflix or rent it from Redbox. In the meantime, you can stay home and watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation instead.
Even still, the holiday film season is in full-gear now, with Seth Rogan’s The Night Before hitting theaters this Friday, Nov. 20. While only time will tell if Love the Coopers or The Night Before is the cheesier film, do not expect much from either.