By Jon Gallagher
Love The Coopers (CBS Films, 2015) – Director: Jesse Nelson. Writer: Steven Rogers (s/p). Stars: Diane Keaton, John Goodman, Ed Helms, Alex Borstein, Timothee Chalamet, Amanda Seyfried, Alan Arkin, Marisa Tomei, Olivia Wilde, Jake Lacy, & Steve Martin. Color, PG-13, 107 minutes.
We have a tradition in the Gallagher family.
On Black Friday, my girls and I always head for a movie and dinner. It started about 20 years ago when the two older girls’ mother would go shopping on Black Friday (that was before the stores started opening at ungodly hours of the morning or on Thanksgiving) and I would take the girls to a movie, then out for pizza.
Since it was an annual event, we all had parts to play. The first year was a complete surprise when I herded two young girls, probably five and 10 years old, into the car without them having a clue where we were going. We wound up at a movie theater, a true treat for them since we rarely went to a theater to see a movie. After the first year, the girls had to pretend that they didn’t know where we were going, and I had to pretend that they didn’t know.
Now the tables are reversed a little. Kelly, my oldest daughter, picks me up and I’m the one who has to pretend that I don’t know where we’re going. As I get older, I find it’s easier to pretend. The middle daughter, Erin, now either comes to my place to ride along or meets us at the theater or restaurant, depending.
My youngest daughter, Caroline, began joining us three years ago when she was eight. Her mother’s family celebrates Thanksgiving on a different day each year, so her joining us depends on when they celebrate.
This year, work schedules and life in general had us attending the movie on Saturday, the day after Black Friday, the day that Caroline’s mother’s family decided to have their celebration, so she didn’t get to attend this year.
In the past years, we’ve seen movies such as Home Alone II, Cheaper by the Dozen, The Bachelor, Wreck-it Ralph, Morning Glory, Polar Express, Frozen, Delivery Man, Penguins of Madagascar, and Four Christmases. Some have been winners, some real stinkers, but the best part is being able to spend time with the three most important people in my life.
I had to keep remembering that thought this year as we went to see Love the Coopers.
An all-star cast with Diane Keaton, John Goodman, Ed Helms, Amanada Seyfried, Alan Arkin, Marisa Tomei, and Olivia Wilde promised to entertain us for nearly two hours. The previews, which showed four generations of a dysfunctional family attempting to reassemble themselves for a Christmas Eve dinner, are probably the best part of the movie.
There’s a valiant attempt to weave four or five subplots into the fabric of the movie itself. Unfortunately, instead of coming out with a beautifully woven pattern in a warm fuzzy blanket, we’re left with a bland, boring, monochromatic beach towel with a few stains.
Alan Arkin is the patriarch of the Cooper family (even though his last name isn’t Cooper – he’s the father of Mrs. Cooper) who shows up at a café every day to see a certain waitress (Seyfried). Their relationship is one of the stories.
Mr. and Mrs. Cooper (Goodman and Keaton) are the focal point of the story since it’s their house where the dinner will take place. The only problem is that after 40 years of marriage, they’re planning a divorce and this will be their last Christmas dinner as a family.
Mrs. Cooper’s sister (Tomei) is arrested for shoplifting on her way to the dinner and her psychoanalysis of the arresting officer gives us another one-dimensional part of the story.
The Cooper’s son (Helms) has just lost his photographer’s job at Sears to a computer, a fact he’s trying to hide from his family as he looks for work. He has a couple of teenage boys, one who’s at the awkward stage of just being interested in girls, and the other at the age of being a real pain in the ass to his older brother.
The most interesting story belongs to the Cooper daughter Eleanor (Wilde) who is on her way home alone. She meets a young soldier (Lacy) at the airport and convinces him to come home with her and pretend to be her boyfriend for the evening. Their interaction, as predictable as the alphabet, is somewhat entertaining, but possibly because it’s the only real interesting subplot in the movie.
There’s also a short-lived exploration into the life of an elderly aunt who’s afflicted with Alzheimer’s that attempts to come off as funny, but misses the mark. I thought maybe they were trying to convey sadness in the failed attempt at humor, but they miss that mark too.
Although the movie never got to the point of me wanting to walk out, it did have me checking my watch about every 15 minutes starting at the one-hour mark, wondering how much longer we had.
Kelly didn’t dislike the movie. She said that even though it was predictable, it left her with a good feeling, which is why she goes to movies.
Erin found it “cheesy” and “unrealistic in so many ways.”
Personally, I was bored, but didn’t hate the movie. I just didn’t really like it all that well. Since I save the lowest grades for movies that I absolutely hate, I’ll give this one a D. I wouldn’t rent it when it comes out on video, even when it hits the bargain bin, and probably wouldn’t bother to watch it on TV either, unless it just happened to be on and I was too lazy to hunt for the remote.
One humorous side note: Erin has just completed her first trimester at Knox College, my alma mater. Knox is a private school with a reputation for producing a lot of artsy-fartsy types. While at dinner before the movie, we were discussing commencement speakers that Knox has had in the past including Barack Obama (when he was just a senator), Bill Clinton (after he’d left office), John Podesta (Clinton’s chief of staff and Knox graduate), Stephen Colbert, and a comedian whose name we couldn’t remember (even though I spent time interviewing him for a local paper). We got to the movie where Erin and I almost shouted in unison, “Ed Helms! That’s the guy!” Ironic: we’d talked about him, couldn’t remember him, then we went to see his movie…