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19 Nov 2015

Bah Humbug: Weirdness and an Overabundance of Subplots Destroy 'Love the Coopers'

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Diane Keaton and John Goodman in Love the Coopers. Diane Keaton and John Goodman in Love the Coopers.

Movie studios are getting ready to release big holiday products like sequels to The Hunger Games and Star Wars, as well as surefire Oscar contenders such as Spotlight and The Revenant.

Still, there will be a week or two when studios try to squeak by with meager offerings. Well, this is one of those weeks, and Love the Coopers is one of those meager offerings.

I’ll say this for the movie: It is jam-packed with talent. Diane Keaton, Marisa Tomei, John Goodman, Anthony Mackie, Alan Arkin, Amanda Seyfried, Ed Helms and even the voice of Steve Martin all show up in this holiday film. However, if you are looking for a Christmas movie to add a little joy to your holiday season, this will not do the trick. If you are looking for something weird, dark and unfunny, this one might please you.

Love the Coopers obviously has a lot of characters played by those aforementioned performers, and a lot of plot lines to go with them. It gets a bit tiresome trying to follow all that is going on.

Charlotte (Keaton) and Sam (Goodman) have been married for more than 40 years. Their marriage has hit the skids, and Christmas looks like it could totally suck. Charlotte has been refusing to travel to Africa with Sam for many years—and that’s the final straw: As the family gathers for Christmas Eve, Sam is planning to leave his wife shortly thereafter. All cups of eggnog will be tainted with that sour taste of despair.

One of the more prominent subplots involves Charlotte’s sister Emma (Tomei) being arrested for shoplifting and getting a stoic police officer (Mackie) as her escort to the police station. Of course, Emma manages to successfully decipher all of the officer’s life issues from the back seat; perhaps she learns a little about herself, too.

Another storyline has Charlotte’s wayward daughter Eleanor (Olivia Wilde) meeting some Army dude (Jake Lacy) at an airport on her way home. She invites him to be her boyfriend for the weekend to trick her mom, even though the two can’t stand each other. It’s the sort of thing that only happens in stupid movies like this. Still, Wilde and Lacy are cute enough to make their screen time almost tolerable. Will they eventually make out? I think so!

The dumbest of the subplots involves be Charlotte’s dad, Bucky (Arkin), having an odd relationship with a diner waitress (Seyfried). They aren’t screwing or anything, but he does lend her movies, and she serves him coffee with sad, forlorn eyes. Developments later in the film suggest Seyfried’s character could wind up with Bucky’s son (Helms). It’s all a little creepy and uncomfortable.

Throw in a crazy aunt who doesn’t remember anything (June Squibb) and farts a lot, and a gangly teenage boy learning to kiss his girlfriend under the mistletoe, and you have just the right ingredients to make a movie-goer violently throw up.

Director Jessie Nelson, whose last directorial effort was the assault on humanity that was I Am Sam some 14 years ago, sabotages her own movie with crazy left turns and wild moments. It’s actually a shock that Seyfried and Arkin don’t make out, because that sort of weirdness would be right at home in this flick. Nelson seems determined to make this an anti-holiday holiday movie. I can respect the effort to be different, but she messes it up—in a big way.

The final twist, involving the origin of Martin’s voice, is probably the best thing in the movie. Since that final twist is sort of lame, that does not saying much for Love the Coopers.

Love the Coopers is playing at theaters across the valley.

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