The Family Stone

Movies

Time Out says


COOKIE CUTTER Parker gets domestic.

"Happy families are all alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way," Tolstoy famously observed. The quirky New England clan of Thomas Bezucha's The Family Stone, however, hangs in limbo between these two poles. When straight-arrow son Everett (Mulroney) brings uptight Manhattan girlfriend Meredith (Parker) home for Christmas, their prospective union tests the Stones' cozy liberal consensus. Earthy mom Sybil (Keaton) believes Everett is making a dreadful mistake. Sister Amy (McAdams) cattily undermines Meredith at every turn, while brother Ben (Wilson), an affable stoner, is plainly infatuated with her. Meredith, veering between tight-lipped hauteur and oblivious chattiness, calls in her appealing, laid-back sister (Danes) for moral support. Complications, of course, ensue.

Bezucha has directed the film as an ambitious cross between a holiday tearjerker (recalling It's a Wonderful Life) and a zippy ensemble comedy (like The Man Who Came to Dinner), but one wishes he had imbued his Stones with some authentic weirdness la The Royal Tenenbaums. Wilson (a Tenenbaums alum) is the most engaging here, ambling through his role with a low-wattage charm. Tellingly, the film reaches for a crutch when it asks its audience to feel; a pivotal emotional sequence hinges upon the pathos of Judy Garland singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" on TV in the background. The comparison with Meet Me in St. Louis, alas, does The Family Stone no favors.—Tom Beer

(Opens Fri 16; see Now playing for venues.)

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