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‘Love the Coopers’ is a well-intentioned half-baked holiday bomb

By Rich Bonaduce, Standard-Examiner Correspondent - | Nov 13, 2015
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Love the Coopers is a droopy holiday comedy. It was reviewed at one-and-a-half stars by the Standard-Examiner's film critic.

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John Goodman plays the husband of Diane Keaton in "Love the Coopers."

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Eleanor (Olivia Wilde) is an unmarried and unsuccessful playwright. She entices a stereotypical soldier she met at the airport (fittingly named Joe and played by a vanilla Jake Lacy) to accompany her to dinner as her fake date in the 2015 holiday movie "Love the Coopers."

Audiences can be forgiven for mistaking “Love the Coopers” for a romantic comedy.

Certainly the trailer and marketing all point this direction, with the opening titles continuing in this vein; filled with harmless holiday eye candy that belies the bleakness to come in this cheerless family flick. Such dreariness is echoed in the washed-out colors of the film, which at least accurately depict the overcast skies of winter in Pennsylvania (and I should know).

Get this: The Coopers consist of great-grandpa Bucky Cooper (Alan Arkin), a widower who wiles away his days in a diner eating food he doesn’t like in order to spend socially acceptable time with young waitress Ruby (an unblinking Amanda Seyfried), schooling her in classic film and literature in between cups of stale coffee.

His jovial son Sam (John Goodman) has been married to buttoned-down Charlotte (Diane Keaton) for 40 lately unremarkable years, and they’re having a tough time keeping it together for the family for one last holiday. But their kids have their own problems…

Recently divorced Hank (Ed Helms) is struggling with being a single dad to his three kids, dealing with his oafish ex-wife Angie (Alex Borstein), and keeping his recent job-loss a secret. Meanwhile his kids have it no better. Not only are they dealing with their parents’ divorce, but pimply-faced Charlie (Timothée Chalamet) gets bullied when he freezes up while hitting on his crush. His little brother Bo (Maxwell Simkins) only gets in the way when he tries to help and sister Madison (Blake Baumgartner) is vulgarly acting out.

Hank’s ailing elderly Aunt Fishy (June Squibb) is so far gone she can’t remember who she is.


THE FILM: ‘Love the Coopers’

CRITIC RATING: *1/2 stars

STARRING: Diane Keaton, John Goodman, Ed Helms, Amanda Seyfried, Alan Arkin, Marisa Tomei, Olivia Wilde, Anthony Mackie

BEHIND THE SCENES: It’s filmed in a small town near Pittsburgh called Millvale, this is Amanda Seyfried’s first film set in her home state (she’s from Allentown, PA). Annette Bening was originally attached to the role ultimately played by Marisa Tomei. The film’s original title was “The Most Wonderful Time”; was then filmed with the title “Let It Snow”… both better titles than “Love the Coopers.” Ed Helms and Jake Lacy previously worked together on The Office. Olivia Wilde and Amanda Seyfried’s third film together. They were both previously in “Alpha Dog” and “In Time.” And Ed Helms and John Goodman previously starred in “The Hangover Part III.”

PLAYING: Layton Hills 9, Syracuse 6, Megaplex 13, Cinemark Farmington, Layton Tinseltown, Newgate Tinseltown, Megaplex 14, Walker 8, North Ogden 6.

MPAA RATING: Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, language and some sexuality. 106 minutes

Meanwhile, sister Eleanor (Olivia Wilde) is an unmarried and unsuccessful playwright who is the mistress of her married doctor. She dreads her mother Charlotte’s disapproval so much she entices a stereotypical soldier she met at the airport (fittingly named Joe and played by a vanilla Jake Lacy) to accompany her to dinner as her fake date.

But Charlotte’s sister Emma (Marisa Tomei) isn’t doing much better than her kids. Emma’s an unmarried and childless life-coach who is perpetually late and jealous of her older sister. 

“Coopers” is an odd mix altogether with the mixture of special effects, flashbacks, classic film footage, awkward family sing-a-longs and shoehorned bathroom humor that toes the PG-13 line.

So many story lines and characters exist that none are developed well, with some explanations and connections being left out entirely: Arkin’s geriatric Bucky shows up at the family gathering with Seyfried’s young Ruby – and no one bats an eye even though she’s a total stranger to the family. 

But there’s no time for that since “Love the Coopers” spends much of its runtime setting up improbable and overlapping malaise. But at least there’s nothing like a stroke to wrap a dysfunctional family up in a nice holiday bow. All problems are solved (or at least dismissed) in mere minutes, and all under the guise that the mess of everyday life is a gift in and of itself.

Finally — and I hesitate to write this — Steve Martin narrates the whole film as the family dog. It may be obvious to some, but it may also be a spoiler since the filmmakers try some misdirection with having the dog refer to itself in the third-pooch during the film, only to have it eventually reveal itself to be talking about its humans, its people. I think this device might have worked better right up front, as its last minute reveal is an eye-roller. But at least it explains the lilting manner in which Martin delivers every line, including the one that closes the film: “Woof.”

If you must, you might as well stick around for the end-credit outtakes of more of the Cooper family singing. You can’t get your money back at that point, anyway.


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