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Love the Coopers Movie Review

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Love the Coopers is now available on home video. Read our review of the Blu-ray + DVD combo.

Love the Coopers (2015) movie poster Love the Coopers

Theatrical Release: November 13, 2015 / Running Time: 107 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Jessie Nelson / Writer: Steven Rogers

Cast: Alan Arkin (Bucky), John Goodman (Sam Cooper), Ed Helms (Hank Cooper), Diane Keaton (Charlotte Cooper), Anthony Mackie (Officer Williams), Steve Martin (Narrator), Amanda Seyfried (Ruby), June Squibb (Aunt Fishy), Marisa Tomei (Emma Cooper), Olivia Wilde (Eleanor Cooper), Jake Lacy (Joe), Alex Borstein (Angie), Jon Tenney (Dr. Tony Morrissey), Molly Gordon (Lauren Hesselberg), Maxwell Simkins (Bo Cooper), Blake Baumgartner (Madison Cooper), Timothιe Chalamet (Charlie Cooper), Lev Pakman (Schnozzle Whitehead), Bolt (Rags)

Buy Love the Coopers from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD • DVD + Digital • Instant Video

There are primarily two kinds of Christmas movies being made these days, both of which can be classified as family comedies. There are the movies that involve Santa Claus and his relationship to our world: things like The Santa Clause, Elf, Fred Claus, and so on. Then there are the more adult-oriented movies that usually depict contemporary family celebrations of the holiday.
This class would include your Four Christmases, Christmas with the Kranks, Deck the Halls, and the like. Love the Coopers clearly belongs to the latter tradition. It's a family movie you might take the kids along to, not one the kids drag you to. This multi-generational tale may purport to be all-ages entertainment, but it's rated PG-13 and most likely to be appreciated by adults, particularly adults who have low standards or do not see many movies.

Narrated by what is revealed to be -- spoiler alert! -- a family dog (who sounds a little like Steve Martin), the film divides our time among many different narratives involving different parts of a big family apparently residing in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Sam (John Goodman) and Charlotte (Diane Keaton) are quietly on the cusp of a separation, largely over the fact that they still haven't taken a trip to Africa he wanted to go on thirty years ago. The two put on smiles and shield their relatives from these plans.

The holiday comedy "Love the Coopers" sees a large Pittsburgh family celebrating Christmas together.

Their divorced son Hank (Ed Helms), a secretly out-of-work department store photographer, scrambles to find a new job, nervously snorting all the way. His acne-riddled teenaged son (Timothιe Chalamet) pursues his love interest at her mall job. At perhaps the same mall, Charlotte's sister Emma (Marisa Tomei, who in the film's understanding is just a few years younger than Diane Keaton), gets caught trying to shoplift a brooch with her mouth. She is subjected to the world's longest car ride from Officer Williams (Anthony Mackie), a robot-like closeted bachelor she tries to counsel from the backseat.

The older generation is represented by Aunt Fishy (Nebraska's June Squibb), whose memory is failing her. There is also Bucky (Alan Arkin), a retired professor who is Charlotte and Emma's father but spends more time with Ruby (Amanda Seyfried), a diner waitress who is planning to move to Hot Coffee, Mississippi.

While these plots come and go, the film devotes the most time of all to Eleanor (Olivia Wilde), Sam and Charlotte's unlucky in love daughter, who sparks up a romance at the airport with Joe (Jake Lacy), a grounded soldier in his Army fatigues. He's a Christian and a Republican. She's very liberal and seeing a married man. But this being Christmas, what could possibly go wrong when Joe agrees to pose as her boyfriend for her family? (He could make them fake-engaged with a random blurt.)

The fake romance between Joe (Jake Lacy) and Eleanor (Olivia Wilde) is the narrative of greatest interest to "Love the Coopers."

Martin's narration feels an awful lot like Alec Baldwin's omniscient voiceover on The Royal Tenenbaums, which is absolutely the only way you'll be reminded of Wes Anderson's masterful comedy about a family of underachieving geniuses. Coopers may strive for such comparisons, but instead it reminds you of much stupider movies, including Garry Marshall's dreadful ensemble romcoms Valentine's Day and New Year's Eve and last year's wretched The Big Wedding.
I haven't seen The Family Stone, though I may not need to after this. The proceedings also lean closer to the lowly Kranks, Halls, and Surviving Christmas than Christmas Vacation or Martin's overrated Parenthood.

Earning Jessie Nelson (I Am Sam, Corrina, Corrina) her first directing credit since 2001, this dreck assigns screenplay credit exclusively to Nelson's Stepmom co-writer Steven Rogers, who has also made himself scarce in Hollywood since penning a trio of poorly-reviewed romances (Hope Floats, Kate & Leopold, P.S. I Love You). Neither is likely to find themself in demand after this collaboration.

The movie piles on the Christmas with an almost ceaseless stream of holiday songs...plus Bob Dylan and Nina Simone. It also pushes us to bask in the joy of Christmas with a parade of brief flashbacks to childhood memories. And as an offering to critics, moments are lifted from classic films that Arkin's character has evidently recommended to his favorite waitress.

The reason there are so many Christmas movies is because the festive season is such a major part of the year for so many people. Even if you can't buy into North Pole lore anymore, who can't relate to the tensions that arise from observing the holidays with family? The problem is too many Christmas movies follow the formula unimaginatively. They blanket you with holiday colors and songs, hoping you won't notice how cookie cutter the chaos and conflict they're feeding you, only to inevitably opt for the warm fuzzy redemption finale.

With the exception of the finest adaptations of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol (the one yuletide redemption story by which all other are measured and fall short), a number of the best Christmas movies are the ones with more to say than "Christmas, huh?" Beloved movies like It's a Wonderful Life, Die Hard, Home Alone, and Gremlins offer inventive stories that simply happen to take place in part or in full around the holiday.

Love the Coopers feels like a feature film version of a 2015 sitcom Christmas episode. It runs five times as long and the last couple of episodes seem especially unnecessary and belabored. But many people at my screening laughed as if they haven't been exposed to such uncreative gags before as a dog getting into human food, a grandma who farts, and a true romance based on lies. In the press rows was silence. I can assure you that my fellow critics and I did not share their joy at being exposed to such tired farce again. Get ready for "Hate the Coopers" jokes. You would be better off watching your favorite Christmas movie you know by heart at home than heading to the theater to see this.

Buy Love the Coopers from Amazon.com:
Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD / DVD + Digital / Instant Video

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Diane Keaton: Father of the Bride & Father of the Bride Part II • Morning Glory • Annie Hall • Marvin's Room
John Goodman: The Monuments Men • Arachnophobia • Inside Llewyn Davis • Argo
Ed Helms: Vacation • Cedar Rapids • Jeff, Who Lives at Home • We're the Milers • The Hangover
Olivia Wilde: Third Person • The Words Her • The Incredible Burt Wonderstone • People Like Us | Amanda Seyfried: In Time • Dear John
Anthony Mackie: Captain America: The Winter Soldier • Pain & Gain • Gangster Squad | Marisa Tomei: The Rewrite • Crazy, Stupid, Love. • Cyrus • Wild Hogs
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Reviewed November 13, 2015.

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