'The Family Stone' Review *** 021106
Theatrical Review (2005)

The Work = ***
About 20 minutes into 'The Family Stone' something happened. I started to not mind it. Let me just say, it was not my idea to see this film and the first 20 minutes confirmed that my judgment was correct in wanting to not see it. Then some genuinely funny scenes started popping up and well, the performers all seemed so into their roles that I just sort of got rapped up in 'The Family Stone'. The movie is pretty slight and is more or less forgettable but it also has some decent moments and I can’t really say it is a bad movie.

The story revolves around a family coming together for Christmas. The children that are away come home and all of a sudden the Stone family is back together again. Everything is not a bed of roses though, the oldest son Everett (Dermot Mulroney) has brought home his girlfriend Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker) and she doesn’t mix well with the earthy and open pseudo-hippie Stones. She’s big city, all business, and far too uptight for them. It is funny that there is this big conflict since the “earthy” Stones have a house the size of a small country and appear to have the income of one of the Wal-Mart children.

Actually Everett and Meredith were one of my chief reasons for not enjoying 'The Family Stone'. Now, part of the story involves the couple not seeming like a happy loving pair. The problem is, they never actually seemed like a real couple to me. I know it is supposed to be a mismatch but, jeez, try and make it a little believable. Their relationship and the early moments with the Stones made it seem like I was going to be sitting through an hour and a half of annoying cinema.

Things changed and a lot of it has to do with some of the funny moments that pop up in the film. Meredith’s interaction with the Stone’s may be predictable but it does set up some laugh inducing moments, particularly when she has to talk to Everett’s brother Ben (Luke Wilson.) Wilson seems to be having fun playing the easygoing stoner and I liked the way nothing seemed to faze him except for the one moment when he got stoned and talked to his Dad (Craig T. Nelson) about his Mom (Diane Keaton.) (Yes, Ben Stone and his Dad Kelly Stone are stoners... oh how clever. Actually if you find that clever you’ll love that the title 'The Family Stone' has the double meaning of being a reference to the Stone family and a family wedding ring...

Seriously, outside of the silly puns another element that rubbed me the wrong way was the sort of uber liberal way Keaton’s character Sybil was supposed to talk. Her dialogue rarely came off as believable and Keaton’s delivery just seemed awkward. I say that, and yet in scenes where she was acting so super liberal she was effective especially in the more heartfelt moments. Actually what may become apparent from this is just how many clichés, demographics and stereotypes 'The Family Stone' churns out. Some work, some don’t but it is to the films credit that it just plows ahead and I must admit was not boring.

'The Family Stone' is a bittersweet Christmas comedy and it oscillates between the bitter and the sweet. For the most part the film is stronger when it plays out its sometime dark comedic sequences. The more dramatic side of the film can at times (and especially towards the end) be a bit of downer. In fact the conclusion of the film didn’t exactly leave me with much of an uplifted feeling, especially for a Holiday comedy.

So, the film is slight and parts of it are trying on the patience but you know what? Overall I didn’t mind it and for fans of the comedy / drama (with some real tearjerker moments) 'The Family Stone' will fit the bill I think. The actors give their all and there really were some funny moments. I’m giving it a moderate recommendation.


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