Love the Coopers Movie Review
So this is what would have happened had the Grinch won.
Cheap melodrama can work, especially in the context of a Christmas movie. But you have to have likable characters, and Love the Coopers has one of the most depressing, unlikable casts of characters you’ll ever see--at least in a Christmas-themed family comedy. The movie quickly makes you hate everyone and everything, including the dog, and worst--it makes you hate yourself, because you’re the one who decided to subject yourself to this small-hearted, coal-packed stocking stuffer of awfulness.
There are some funny moments scattered throughout, not surprising given the solid cast consisting of Diane Keaton, John Goodman, Ed Helms, Amanda Seyfried, Alan Arkin, Marisa Tomei and Olivia Wilde. I chuckled in a few parts, laughed in a few others and found Love the Coopers to be tolerable. Until it isn’t. Most of the comedy, as uneven as it is, comes in the first half of the movie.
The rest of the flick makes you want to slit your wrists, hunt down Santa and slit his, too.
The movie struggles with an overload of characters from the Cooper clan, a distraught family where everyone is seemingly unhappy with their horribly depressed lives. Helms is criminally underutilized as a divorcee who is struggling to find a new job, while his awkward teenage son is looking to lock lips, or tongues, with his crush. Keaton and Goodman are the grandparents, but they both hate each other and are debating whether to announce their impending divorce at dinner (why then?). And Olivia Wilde plays an emotionally wrecked woman who meets a handsome soldier (Jake Lacy) at the airport who for some reason is willing to tolerate her verbal abuse and borderline personality, presumably because he has a small shot at getting laid or touching her boob.
The problem is--all of these characters suck, and the ones who suck least are so underdeveloped you just don’t give a shit about any of them.
Love the Coopers even fails at tried-and-true story arcs that have worked in so many ensemble movies before it. The teenager’s first love storyline is as cliche as it gets, but every scene focused on these moments are so bland and painful you sort of hope both kids get an STD. The “falling in love with a stranger” storyline has also been done to death, but Wilde’s character is so mean-spirited you not only can’t imagine the guy wanting to end up with her (as hot as she is), you actively hope he doesn’t. And the whole plot revolving around Seyfried’s character is just strange. The filmmakers drop a hint early on that Helms’ character saw and fell in love with her years ago, but when she by coincidence shows up at his family’s Christmas dinner (as his grandpa’s date, sort of), they seemingly cut any scene showing him reacting to such circumstance or where the two actually interact in a way that makes us want them to get together. It’s just confounding.
Director Jessie Nelson (I Am Sam and co-writer of the awful Christmas tale Fred Claus) and screenwriter Steven Rogers (Hope Floats) slap a happy ending of sorts on this tale, but not for a second do you believe any of the characters’ issues have actually been resolved. Love the Cooper is a complete misfire of a film, a feel-good Christmas movie without the “feel-good” part, a film that only the Grinch could truly enjoy.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.