Twelve Days of Christmas Review #5: The Family Stone (2005)

Esprit de famille
Not Pictured: Human Decency

Subgenre:  Comedy-Drama

Summary:  An executive invites his conservative girlfriend to spend Christmas with his free-spirited family.

Review:  The Family Stone is one of those ensemble-cast Christmas comedies, a category that has almost become a subgenre in recent years.  It’s supposed to remind us of our own families around the holidays – thank God it didn’t remind me of mine.

Sarah Jessica Parker plays Meredith, a career woman who’s so uptight – how uptight is she? – she’s so uptight, she asks for separate bedrooms for her and her boyfriend!  Meanwhile, her boyfriend’s family is so progressive – how progressive are they? – they’re so progressive that they have a gay deaf son – whose boyfriend is black!  Naturally, this leads to a clash of personalities, but in the end, the family learns to accept the new arrival, et cetera, et cetera.

The main problem with The Family Stone is that nearly every character is thoroughly unlikable.  The standout here is Rachel McAdams’s casually sadistic sister, who takes every opportunity to insult and demean her future sister-in-law.  In fact, almost all of the Stone family has no qualms ganging up on, mocking, and criticizing Meredith, oftentimes to her face.  The movie tries to write this off as quirkiness, but it’s nothing less than genetically linked sociopathy.

The Family Stone bills itself as a comedy-drama, but for some reason thinks the way to achieve that mix is to convulsively jerk back and forth between serious confrontations (Meredith offended the whole family!) and wacky hijinks (Meredith left afterwards – but she backed her car into a snow bank!).  In its third act, the movie abandons both comedy and drama in favor of an all-out sap fest, complete with breast cancer, crying, and more than a few “sad people” montages.  By the end, we’re supposed to feel for these characters, but seeing how most of them have been established as complete assholes, there’s no reason why we should.

The Verdict:  I can’t think of a more deserving target for the wet bandits than The Family Stone.  I give it three insufferably inhuman in-laws out of ten.

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