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Family Weekend DVD Review

Family Weekend (2013) DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Family Weekend

Video Premiere: April 20, 2013 / Running Time: 105 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Benjamin Epps / Writer: Matt K. Turner

Cast: Olesya Rulin (Emily Smith-Dungy), Kristin Chenoweth (Samantha Smith-Dungy), Matthew Modine (Duncan Dungy), Joey King (Lucinda Smith-Dungy), Eddie Hassell (Jackson/Thor Smith-Dungy), Shirley Jones (GG/Grandma Gale), Robbie Tucker (Mickey Smith-Dungy), Chloe Bridges (Kat), Adam Saunders (Rick), Chase Maser (Chris), Lisa Lauren Smith (Sergeant Ellis), Peter Gail (Deputy Tyler), Cindy Chang (Soojin), Jordan Mahome (Regional Announcer), Arthur Cartwright (James Thompson), Thomas Hoffman (State Announcer)

2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Stereo 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: None / Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled or Captioned
DVD Release Date: April 23, 2013 / Suggested Retail Price: $20.99
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9) / Black Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover

Buy Family Weekend on DVD from Amazon.com

The title and cover art scream ABC Family, but Family Weekend is no television movie. Despite its R rating and 2.40:1 aspect ratio, though,
it does feel more like one of those than the indie comedy it actually is.

Emily Smith-Dungy (Olesya Rulin, the pianist/composer Kelsi from the High School Musical series) is a high school student dedicated to competitive jump roping. With no real friends or outside interests, Emily is devastated to find every member of her large family misses her competing in Michigan's state regionals. She arranges the kind of family dinner to which the family has grown unaccustomed. When no one pays much attention to what she has to say, she takes more drastic action, drugging her parents and then tying them up in chairs with duct tape and jump ropes.

Though that might sound like a Lifetime original movie inspired by shocking true events, this is still a comedy and one you only wish had the amount of tact you expect of basic cable.

Two preoccupied parents (Matthew Modine and Kristin Chenoweth) are tied up and taught a lesson by their fed-up teenaged daughter in "Family Weekend."

The Smith-Dungy family is a mess, with all five of Emily's immediate relatives being self-absorbed, preoccupied, inappropriate, and secretive of late. They live in a mansion where everyone is off doing their own thing, but their distance is more emotional than physical. Emily has had enough. She takes issue with her mother (Kristin Chenoweth), an unhappy workaholic, and her father (Matthew Modine), an open-minded artist who has been suffering from "painter's block" for years since he earned a negative review.

Emily's siblings have their own spate of problems. Her younger sister (Joey King, Ramona and Beezus), an aspiring actress, recreates the antics of graphic R-rated movies, lately dressing and talking like Jodie Foster's child prostitute from Taxi Driver and Reservoir Dogs' Mr. Blonde. Teenaged brother Jackson (Eddie Hassell), now wanting to be known as Thor, has been pretending to be gay purely for artistic credibility. The baby of the bunch, Mickey (Robbie Tucker), is largely silent, save for the occasional macabre animal fact and moments when his ability to reproduce any conversation verbatim is needed to solve an argument.

By comparison, Emily seems rather well-adjusted and in a position to teach her parents a lesson. Because there is only so much conflict inherent in binding one's parents, the movie also finds use for visiting characters, including Chris (Chase Maser), a shy guy with a crush on Emily; Kat (Chloe Bridges), Emily's friend turned nemesis, who is secretly filming and uploading bits of the madness; an Asian cleaning lady; a guy (Adam Saunders) the mother is apparently having an affair with; and a fun environmentalist grandma (Shirley Jones of "The Partridge Family" fame).

Emily (Olesya Rulin) quizzes her parents on their behavior. GG (Shirley Jones) brings out hand puppets for another unfunny sequence.

Marking the directing and screenplay debuts, respectively, of Benjamin Epps and Matt K. Turner, Family Weekend is poorly-acted and painfully unfunny.
But it's even much worse when it tries to be seriously soulful and wise, something it attempts to be for around the final 45 of its far too many 105 minutes. It's tough to imagine anyone enjoying this. Those in the market for an edgy offbeat comedy (a rear cover quote has the nerve to liken this to Little Miss Sunshine and Juno) get nothing of the sort here; the tame R rating is earned by anal sex talk and some drug content. Those expecting the House Arrest-type family comedy the cover art suggests will be surprised by the R-rated material. The movie manages to be stupid and broad but not even a little bit fun. It also tries to be sobering, meaningful, and relevant without getting anywhere close. This is just a showcase for bad ideas and misjudged moments, as turns that must have seem clever and witty on the page just come off obnoxious in execution.

That Turner has the audacity to bring classic cinema into the mix in an effort to divert attention from the movie's faults seems downright pitiful. It's tough to imagine someone watching this movie appreciating the homage to films like Dog Day Afternoon and A Clockwork Orange, which don't even work because King doesn't seem to know what she's imitating, nor should she at age 11 during production. There are plenty of other causes for concern here, including choppy continuity-challenged editing and an utterly illogical happy ending.

Many times when a movie goes direct to video, I feel bad for its makers, who have probably seen better days and have to keep smiling while their hopes for the movie are repeatedly lowered. Here, though, I can't sympathize with anyone on either side of Family Weekend's cameras. This is just an ill-conceived train wreck of a comedy that doesn't even deserve the modest audience its known cast members might earn it.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Deemed unworthy of Blu-ray at this time, Family Weekend is treated to average picture and sound on DVD. Though consistently clean, the 2.40:1 video had some limitations (more than just being standard definition) and generally ran short on detail and sharpness. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, meanwhile, presented neither concerns nor much in the way of excitement. ARC Entertainment chooses to include closed captions instead of English SDH subtitles, a decision that anyone watching with an HDMI connection might lament.

Director Benjamin Epps discusses his first feature as director in between poster images of Kristin Chenoweth and Matthew Modine in "A Conversation with the Filmmakers." Jackson/Thor (Eddie Hassell) talks poultry among floating CG nuggets in this pointless character video.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The DVD's extras begin with the standard promotional featurette "A Conversation with the Filmmakers" (14:25). It gathers thoughts from all the chief creative and principal cast members. Separately (not much of "a conversation"), everyone voices their enthusiasm for the project and respect for their collaborators, amidst a few too many film clips.

Thor Smith-Dungy's "Chicken Dance" (1:24) is the character's online video, which finds him prancing around in an apron while computer-animated chicken nuggets float around.

The plump-lipped Kat (Chloe Bridges) talks walrus homosexuality in this deleted fireside scene. Lucinda (Joey King) tries her Taxi Driver act out in front of the mirror and a bottle of Listerine.

The deleted scene "Jackson & Kat Fireside" (2:02)
plants seeds of romance for two of the supporting characters.

"Rick Dances the 'Camel'" (2:26) extends a dumb scene involving producer Adam Saunders' disposable character.

"Lucinda Gets Into Character" (2:01) allows Joey King to play dress-up in front of a mirror. It's not entirely clear if this character bit was intended for the film or is the only item meeting the case's "webisodes" mention. Either way, it's awkward.

The disc opens with trailers for Unconditional, Stand Off, Amazing Racer, Red Dog, and The Jerk Theory.

The ordinary main menu simply plays clips to a short loop of score, while most secondary selection screens are static and silent.

The plain black keepcase is topped by a slipcover and not equipped with any inserts.

Emily (Olesya Rulin) takes competitive jump roping very seriously. That young girl is acting like "Reservoir Dogs"! How funny!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

It's tough to see any redeeming qualities to Family Weekend, a movie far less clever and funny than it realizes. I guess it believes in the importance of family, but its understanding of the challenges of modern living is tenuous at its best. It really has no business taking and wasting your time.

The DVD's unremarkable feature presentation and lousy extras add little value to a film that is destined for bargain bins in its best-case scenario.

Buy Family Weekend on DVD from Amazon.com

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Related Interviews:
Olesya Rulin, High School Musical 3: Senior Year | Joey King, Ramona and Beezus

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Reviewed April 20, 2013.



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