- behind a camera.
Let's make one thing crystal clear: You may decide to see the Coopers. You may recognize most of the actors playing the Coopers. You may even relate to a Cooper or two. But rest assured, there isn't the slightest chance that for a single second you will love the Coopers. This is the most cloying, annoying, all-around pathetic excuse for a movie I've seen all year.
What, I've got to wonder, were director Jessie Nelson's (I Am Sam) and screenwriter Steven Rogers' major malfunctions when making this yuletide disaster? Could they not clearly see they were creating a monster — a giant, mind-numbing, saccharine, super-talky Hallmark card from hell?
If you've seen the ads and trailers, you probably think this is a comedy about a big, crazy clan that reunites for an annual celebration at which all kinds of wild and wacky high jinks ensue, right? If so, you couldn't be more wrong. There hasn't been a movie family this morose, self-loathing and ridden with angst since Bergman last got behind a camera.
The Coopers are ho-ho-hopeless. Charlotte and Sam are the heads of the household. They're peppy in the most forced and fake way possible, making plans to divorce after 40 years and, sadder still, played by Diane Keaton and John Goodman. There should be a law against casting these two in the same film. They couldn't be more mismatched and aren't believable together for a minute.
Incredibly, the casting gets weirder. Marisa Tomei plays Emma, Charlotte's slightly younger sister. Which makes sense, considering the 19-year age gap between the actresses. She gets arrested on Christmas Eve for eating a brooch in a department store. Don't ask.
Then you've got the kids who come home for the holidays, each trapped in his or her own private hell. Ed Helms — or a pod-person version of him — costars as Hank, who's recently lost both his wife (Alex Borstein) and his job as a mall photographer. He can't afford the bikes his kids are expecting to find under the tree, so more trauma awaits these children of divorce.
Then there's daughter Eleanor (Olivia Wilde), a failed playwright who worries her parents consider her a failure for not having found a mate, as well. Naturally, she picks up a stranger (Jake Lacy) at the airport bar and brings him home to masquerade as her fiancé. Oops, I almost forgot Alan Arkin as Charlotte's father, Bucky. He brings to the party the twentysomething coffee-shop waitress (Amanda Seyfried) with whom he has a thing. Don't ask about this, either.
Bucky comes in handy when all hell breaks loose after feelings are shared at the dinner table. Nothing like a sweet old guy having a stroke and being rushed to the hospital to lay the groundwork for a boilerplate third-act reconciliation. Did I mention the family dog narrates the whole thing? Did I mention Steve Martin does the voice? Can you imagine the dirt Keaton must have on him from their Father of the Bride days? Why else would Martin venture within a mile of this crappy, sappy dud?
So, to sum up: We have dialogue so dumb it can make your ears bleed — some of it spoken by a pet; one-dimensional characters with zero entertainment value; Keaton, as usual, wearing selections from the Jane Jetson Collection and overacting as only she can; and a holiday spent largely in the ER. Somehow I'm not thinking instant Christmas classic.
If Love the Coopers were a present, I'd not only take it back, I'd never speak to the person who gave it to me again.