The director for the family Christmas film, Love the Coopers, must have cast a wide net in search of actors who are instantly recognizable but who have a history of underperforming movies at the box office. Diane Keaton, God bless her, hasn’t had a hit since the last time she made a bad family Christmas film, The Family Stone; Amanda Seyfried, God bless her, has been on the box-office skids since Dear John (aside from the ensemble Les Miserables); Ed Helms couldn’t open a movie with a crowbar; and Olivia Wilde, of course, is the most toxically poisonous box-office star of the last decade.
It seems unlikely that any of their fortunes will change with Love the Coopers, in spite of the presence of John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Anthony Mackie, the always lovely Marisa Tomei, and way, way too much voiceover narration from Steve Martin (who we haven’t seen in front of the camera since 2011’s The Big Year).
Love the Coopers is basically a studio engineered attempt to duplicate Love Actually by mashing up an American cast of familiar faces with a Christmas episode of Modern Family. It’s a converging series of subplots concerning the broken, lonely, heartsick, and unemployed members of the Cooper family that ends, ultimately, with all the members of the family exploding over Christmas dinner and making up at a dance party in a hospital after a near-death experience.
You know, the usual.
It’s not a heinous movie, it’s just insubstantial. It’s a treacly, manipulative, heartwarming Hallmark card designed to appeal to middle-class white people who want to avoid talking to their extended families by spending two hours at the movies. It’s harmless, and one subplot — concerning a woman played by Wilde who picks up a guy shipping off to the army (Jake Lacy) in an airport — is almost even charming. Almost.
There are, however, some weird age differences that might bug the shit out of you if, for some reason, you’re dragged to see the movie. For instance, Diane Keaton plays the slightly older sister of Marisa Tomei and the daughter of Alan Arkin (Keaton is 20 years older than Tomei and only 12 years younger than Arkin). And I don’t want to sound like a dick about it, but when Keaton is not wearing a turtleneck or a scarf, they make some weird choices in how to film her neck. It appears as though the soft focus filter is turned up so much that her neck is blurred, or that they’re using CGI on her neck and casting artificial shadows. Whatever they’re trying to do to make Keaton look a few years younger only serves as a weird distraction.
There’s also a romantically platonic relationship between Alan Arkin and Amanda Seyfried’s characters, which gives away to a slightly less weird coupling of Seyfried and Ed Helms.
Maybe if the movie were better, age-differences and CGI necks wouldn’t be as noticeable, but Love the Coopers — even for a super easy target who loves to be shamelessly pandered to like myself — is a lingering under-the-blanket fart with about as much Christmas cheer as a conversation about the new Starbucks cup.