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‘Love the Coopers’ fails to entertain

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By Nicole Wallack

November 24, 2015

As filled with clichés as it is stars, “Love the Coopers” is not the instant-classic holiday family movie that it tries to be.  “Love the Coopers” wants to be heartwarming and show how, despite all of their differences, the members of the Cooper family really do love each other, but it falls flat both comically and emotionally.

The lack of depth to the characters in the film further leads to its lack of success. But, the film has nearly everything in terms of clichés, including a bad-boy-turned-soldier, an omniscient narrator played by the family dog (voiced by Steve Martin), and a heartbroken women who has since shut herself off to love.

This film follows the ubiquitous practice lately in romantic comedies of introducing characters separately, telling their stories in parallel, and as the story progresses, showing the relationship between these characters. Whereas such a practice might have been successful in keeping you guessing as to the relationships between the characters in films such as “Crazy, Stupid, Love” and “Valentine’s Day,” it is obvious who the characters are in “Love the Coopers” because of the family slant in the film.

The film focuses on married couple Charlotte (Diane Keaton) and Sam (John Goodman) who are the parents of Hank (Ed Helms) and Eleanor (Olivia Wilde) and Charlotte‘s sister Emma (Marisa Tomei) and father Bucky (Alan Arkin).  Also introduced is a waitress, Ruby (Amanda Seyfried), who serves regular customer Bucky at the diner where she works. The film follows the lives of this family as they travel and prepare to go to Charlotte and Sam’s house for what we learn will be the family’s last Christmas dinner together because of Charlotte and Sam’s impending separation. The reason for their divorce appears to be that the two have drifted apart due to time.

The strength of love and family is the message of the film, but it is laid on a bit too thick. In the beginning of the film Charlotte and Sam are barely on speaking terms, but are insistent upon having one last happy Christmas before breaking the divorce to the rest of the family. However, by the end of the film, the couple has predictably reconciled and erased years of drifting apart with just one family dinner.

The film also falls flat in terms of making the audience feel any empathy for the characters. The characters appear one-dimensional. Even the introductions to these characters (which is supposed to be one of the most interesting aspects of these types of parallel storyline films) fall flat due to lack of creativity.

We first see Eleanor at an airport bar, Emma getting arrested for shoplifting, and Bucky at the diner that he frequents, none of which is particularly exciting or intriguing. Even as we learn more about the characters as the story progresses, the characters do not go any deeper than basic caricatures. Emma is Charlotte’s jealous younger sister who feels that she never got enough attention and is a disappointment for never having children like her big sister. Eleanor is the emotionally guarded daughter who had her heart broken before and developed trust issues.

Charlotte is a wife intent on making the holidays happy for her family. Sam is the husband who feels like he no longer knows his wife. The characters are so shallow that it does not even matter that, predictably, all of the characters get what they need at the end of the film.

The film is rife with clichés and is completely predictable, but that is not what truly leads to the downfall of this film. It is the facile nature of the characters that leads this film to be nothing more than an artificial and message-laden attempt at a feel-good holiday movie.



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