Family Movie Review: Love the Coopers (PG-13)

LoveTheCoopers ChesapeakeFamilyMovieReviewKernel Rating (out of 5): half popcorn kernal

MPAA Rating: PG-13       Length: 105 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 13+. A lot of sexually themed humor and content here: a character is having an affair with a married man; teenagers make out and tongue-kiss wherever they are; married couples kiss while horizontal in public spaces; there is a lot of discussion about virginity and sexual preferences. Also some drinking by adults, some cursing, some gross-out humor (vomiting, people unknowingly eating food that a dog ate first), the suggestion of a character cutting herself, and the mention of a child who passed away from a medical condition.

‘Love the Coopers’ is a garbage fire of a movie, everything that is terrible and cliché about the Christmas and holiday season wrapped up into one woman-hating, falsely sentimental ‘comedy.’

By Roxana Hadadi

“Love the Coopers” is not a good movie, not a relatable movie, not a believable movie. It banks on your holiday goodwill and your love of all things Christmas to excuse its awfulness, to accept its barely developed characters, and to ignore its shockingly undermining treatment of women. You shouldn’t do any of these things. You should ignore “Love the Coopers” every chance you get.

Yet another of those holiday-themed films that centers on a dozen or so disparate characters who all end up playing a role in each other’s lives (previous incarnations of this ilk have been focused on New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day, so it makes sense that Christmas is next), “Love the Coopers” doesn’t have anything of substance to say. It paints all of its characters into corners of misery and then forces them to jump through hoops to work through all their problems, but curiously, it’s only the women in the movie causing the problems, and only the women in the movie who have to change. Literally every man in this film gets a pass to be exactly who he is, because he loves his female partner so much that he wants her to change who she is to appease him. Merry Christmas!

The film, narrated by the family dog because why not, focuses on the Coopers and their various relationships and issues. There is family patriarch Bucky (Alan Arkin, of “Million Dollar Arm”), who has grown very fond of downtrodden and beautiful diner waitress Ruby (Amanda Seyfried, of “Pan”); his daughter, Emma (Marisa Tomei, of “Spare Parts”), who gets picked up for shoplifting by Officer Williams (Anthony Mackie, of “Ant-Man”); and his other daughter, Charlotte (Diane Keaton, of “5 Flights Up”), who is on the verge of divorce from her husband of 40 years, Sam (John Goodman, of “Transformers: Age of Extinction”).

Charlotte and Sam have a son, Hank (Ed Helms, of “They Came Together”), fresh off a divorce and struggling to find a job; and a daughter, Eleanor (Olivia Wilde, of “The Lazarus Effect”), a self-destructive playwright who doesn’t believe in marriage but strikes up a flirtation with the soldier Joe (Jake Lacy) at an airport bar. There are also various other characters, like Hank’s sons, one of whom is dealing with his first crush, and Sam’s aunt, suffering from dementia and prone to saying depressing things we’re supposed to laugh at, but that’s because this cast is sprawling and mostly underserved.

In a movie like this, every character gets one thing to define them, and it’s funny how the gender lines divide here: Charlotte is neurotic and obsessed with providing her family a perfect Christmas before she and Sam announce their separation; in contrast, Sam just wants to work on their marriage. Hank is a nice guy trying to inject some soul back into his family, whereas his ex-wife is a controlling, rude shrew. Eleanor is pathetic in her disrespect for her body and herself, but the nice conservative soldier Joe will show her what it’s like to be loved. Is Christmas actually about shaming women, their choices, and their beliefs, and “Love the Coopers” is here to break the news to audiences? Who knew!

Amid all of this female undermining is a movie that relies on gross-out humor, sex jokes, and the shrugging explanation of “We’re family” to excuse its vapidness. Nothing about “Love the Coopers” feels genuine, its only bright spots being Arkin’s lived-in gruffness and Wilde’s quippy vulnerability. Otherwise, this is a mess of family dysfunction, a cheap attempt at a Christmas movie that indulges in the most inauthentic kind of sentimental storytelling.

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