The Fruitcake of Holiday Movies

“Love the Coopers”? I didn’t. Neither will you.

The first holiday film of the year arrives with a monumental thud, despite an impressively decorated, star-studded cast. The dramedy revolves around the matriarch of the Cooper clan (Diane Keaton), who tries to bring her misshapen family together for a final Christmas dinner, before her and her husband of 40 years (John Goodman) divorce. Like “Love Actually,” we jump from storyline to storyline, as we chart the progress of each family member’s trek homeward.

Unfortunately, comparing “Love the Coopers” to any film with the words “love,” or “actually” in the title would be an insult to those movies (“Love the Coopers” being the exception that establishes the rule). Actual jokes with a real set-up and punchline are few and far between, and rarely land anyway. “Coopers” largely relies on out of place vulgarity in place of comedy, or utilizes site gags that it recycles until there is a permanent dent in the ground where the dead horse used to be.

As far as the movie’s attempt at subversive drama, most of the characters are too poorly developed, or unrealistically written to be genuinely compelling. The script occasionally comes close to insight into some of these characters, but sheepishly walks away from the doorbell, instead of knocking down that door. The direction ranges from uninspired to downright disruptive of the film’s flow, and the insistence on narrating every plot point and character trait before we actually get to see it, makes watching the film a formality.

There are, maybe, one or two laughs to be had, and perhaps two subplots are somewhat compelling. Bucky (Alan Arkin) and Ruby (Amanda Seyfried) share a couple of scenes in a diner that are at least watchable and Arkin turns in a fairly solid performance. The most fleshed out story belongs to the romance between Eleanor (Olivia Wilde) and Joe (Jake Lacy). There’s a real chemistry between the two of them, and there seems to be genuine depth to their characters. There might be a good movie based on their few scenes, if Eleanor weren’t such an insufferable jerk.

The real problem with “Coopers” is that it doesn’t seem to have any fun, or good intention. I wouldn’t mind the movie if it were just formulaic, and I can tolerate a bad movie. The reason that the film gave me a headache is because it seems to exist solely to grab the money out of your wallet. The film industry is undoubtedly a business, but at least disguise yourself; have some respect for your audience. By the film’s end, you know the film was sponsored by Southwest Airlines and McDonald’s, and you know the film went out of its way to shamelessly appeal to every demographic (Anthony Mackie plays the generic black/gay guy). It’s borderline offensive.

Please, for the sake of your health, and for the future of the cinema, stay away from “Love the Coopers.”